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Telemedicine at Orlando Health: Oncology

August 06, 2015

When you are battling cancer, the amount of required doctor appointments and follow-up visits can feel overwhelming.

It isn’t always easy to get to a doctor or you may not feel well enough for an in-person visit. We understand this, but our goal is still to give you the best care possible. Fortunately, technology has made this easier. Telemedicine, which lets us provide care when an in-person visit isn’t possible, is a prime example of this.

With telemedicine, we typically use secured smartphones or computers so that we can see patients and patients can see us. While the technology was initially used to reach out to patients in rural areas who had limited access to care, it has rapidly expanded to allow patients in all areas the added bonus of seeing their physicians from their own home. According to the American Telemedicine Association, more than half of all U.S. hospitals use some form of telemedicine.

At UF Health Cancer Center, we’ve implemented a telemedicine service to give our oncology patients this convenience. We primarily use it to manage patients who have recently undergone chemotherapy. We monitor their side effects while they are home and follow up on abnormal lab results or blood work outside of a scheduled office visit. The way the process works is fairly simple: we use a website that people can access on their phone or computer. Patients login and we’re able to see them virtually. It allows us to assess someone similar to how we would during an in-person visit. For example, we can evaluate a patient’s rashes and get a better sense of how the person is feeling. This is much better than a phone appointment because we can visually assess the patient.

With telemedicine, we proactively manage symptoms before they become so severe that someone must be hospitalized, and when questions or problems arise after an in-person appointment we can quickly address them. We can set up an appointment in as little as one day. Overall, patients like the service and many are excited to try it when we suggest it during their in-person visit. It’s great for people who have been unable to make their appointments because of work or family obligations or in situations when I am out of the office for various reasons. Though there are sometimes small hiccups with the technology, this approach has allowed us to see patients and work with them on various issues involving their oncology care.

In the future, our goal is to use this service to help patients who need second opinions, have transportations issues or have other reasons they can’t make it into our office. While we do offer next-day appointments for anyone who would like to see us, it’s not always possible for patients to make it in due to the circumstances surrounding a new cancer diagnosis. A telemedicine consultation can help in these situations. The technology also may be beneficial when a patient’s family members are unable to make it into the office for an appointment.

Our mission is to give every person quality care. Telemedicine helps us do that. The convenience it offers makes is great for patients, especially those dealing with a cancer diagnosis. If you’d like more information about the oncology telemedicine program, please call 321-841-7219.