Assessment of Cancer Care via Telehealth Should Look at Clinical Trial Access, Cost, Other Factors

July 31, 2020

The Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recently submitted comments to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in response to its Request for Information (RFI): Seeking Stakeholder Input on Scientific Gaps and Research Needs Related to Delivery of Cancer-related Care via Telehealth. The RFI aims to elicit stakeholder feedback and allow NCI to assess the current state of telehealth in the United States and its role in oncology in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ASCO's comments highlight what the Association believes to be important areas for consideration as NCI assesses the scientific gaps and research needs related to cancer care via telehealth and make recommendations including:

  • Role of telehealth in addressing issues of equity and access to clinical trials (CT)—NCI and the Food and Drug Administration’s timely response to COVID-19 enabled patients to continue CT participation through telehealth, and this provides an excellent opportunity to understand how well-designed telehealth could enable sites to provide enhanced access to CTs and improve CT diversity.
  • Best practices for telehealth and quality assessment—Safety, treatment adherence, clinical care and cost effectiveness research is needed to determine the efficacy of emerging telemedicine models in order to deliver high quality, evidence-based cancer care.
  • Optimal methods to collect and assess patient-reported outcomes (PROs) and clinician views—ASCO urges NCI to support research into the development of more robust PRO assessments and quality measures in order to better understand which telemedicine models work best.
  • Addressing the digital divide—Researching effective communication methods to address disparities in the digital divide will be critical not only to realizing the promise of telemedicine for patients with cancer, but to providing equitable access to care for all patients, everywhere.

ASCO’s comments also thank NCI for including “understanding of the role of costs, insurance, and payer policies on receipt of telehealth services” in its list of research topics. The association asserts that this creates an important opportunity to gather evidence on whether and how these financial factors influence telehealth adoption, as well as ASCO’s support for the appropriate and continued use of telehealth in cancer care delivery in the post-pandemic future.

Read the full comment letter

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