The national coronavirus quarantine has caused most healthcare providers to boost telemedicine services. Technology allows physicians to monitor and consult patients remotely, which helps reduce the number of people inside practice locations to hopefully flatten the curve. Given the current situation, a major local independent private practice, Texas Oncology, has decided to expand those capabilities: Patients can now schedule virtual visits with more than 400 physicians and 150 advanced practice providers throughout the state’s cancer care practice.
Using a downloadable video conferencing app, physicians and care team members can visit with patients and their families, share files, and review imaging and lab data. The same high quality cancer care is given to patients—Texas Oncology said the virtual experience is comparable to a traditional in-person office visit.
The approach gives Texas Oncology the ability to conduct more than 500 telemedicine visits a day.
“Expanding the telemedicine capability that we launched at Texas Oncology five years ago enables our patients to access their physicians from their mobile phones or home computers—without having to come to one of our locations,” Debra Patt, M.D., MPH, MBA, executive vice president of public policy and strategic initiatives at Texas Oncology, said in a statement. “Robust adoption of this technology is an essential component of our overall approach to continuing vital, timely care, while protecting the safety of our patients and our staff during the COVID-19 health crisis.”
Some patients might still need to visit a Texas Oncology location—the website shows some 67 centers in Dallas-Fort Worth—depending on necessity. For instance, patients already in treatment receive in-person therapy that requires observation by clinicians.
But Texas Oncology recognizes that the telemedicine expansion is vital to safeguarding the more than 55,000 new cancer patients it sees each year. Patient consultations, follow-up visits, survivorship consultations, and on-track appointments can all be done virtually. The practice said it’s following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in every aspect of its COVID-19 response.
“Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, care for cancer patients cannot be delayed. We are open and seeing patients across Texas,” Steven Paulson, M.D., president and chairman of the board for Texas Oncology, said in a statement. “We accelerated the expansion of telemedicine to meet the urgent need to continue treating patients: safely.”
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