The majority of cancer survivors find the use of telehealth as a way of communicating with nurses and other healthcare professionals to be “positive and worthwhile”, according to UK researchers.
They noted that cancer survival rates are now at an all-time high with 2.5 million cancers survivors in the UK, a number which was set to rise to four million by 2030.
“Telehealth supported their independence and offered them reassurance”
They added that healthcare providers were encouraging patients to play an active role in managing their care, with telehealth system one of the more popular ways this could be achieved.
Telehealth services allow patients to have meetings and follow up consultations either on the phone or through online services at a time that suits them, said the researchers from Surrey University.
Having examined studies that reported cancer patients’ direct views on their experience of telehealth, the researchers found that the majority of cancer survivors backed the use of telehealth.
Cancer survivors who had used telehealth reported their appreciation of the flexibility and convenience of the programme, which enabled them to engage with healthcare providers with minimum disruption to their lives and in a comfortable, familiar environment.
The research also found that the invisibility and perceived anonymity that telehealth provided reduced cancer survivors’ sense of vulnerability and in some cases enabled them to raise concerns remotely that they would not have wanted to discuss face-to-face.
However, there were some aspects of telehealth that cancer survivors liked less, according to the findings published in Journal of Medical Internet Research.
For example, some survivors viewed telehealth as an impersonal service which did not allow them to meet their healthcare team in person.
Other survivors were unable to engage with the service due to particular personal circumstances, such as hearing issues or lack of computer literacy skills.
Lead study author Dr Anna Cox said: “It is important that we raise awareness of this serious illness and consider the impact of alternative models of care on cancer survivors.
“Our research found that cancer survivors wanted to get back to their daily lives as quickly as possible, telehealth helped facilitate this as it removed the often burdensome visits to hospital and enabled the integration of care into daily routines,” she said.
“For many cancer survivors, telehealth supported their independence and offered them reassurance,” she said. “However, it is all down to personal preference, as some cancer survivors still preferred traditional methods of care.”
She added: “We are now living in a digital world and it is important that our care models take advantage of this in order to meet increased demands on the National Health Service. Involving a range of cancer survivors in the design of telehealth interventions is essential to their success.”