The pandemic has made it difficult to get the same healthcare that we are used to. It is even harder for those who live with a medical condition or serious disease, such as cancer. There is a heightened risk for these people, so going to a necessary appointment may result in a COVID-19 infection and ensuing complications or death. Luckily, telemedicine has become more prevalent during the pandemic. Kristine Barrows, a breast cancer patient, spoke of her experience with telemedicine. She was given the option of a virtual appointment rather than driving to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Chicago, which she said alleviated some of her anxiety and was easy to access. Her story is one of many, and it shows the growing prominence of telehealth.
About Breast Cancer
Breast cancer forms in the cells of the breast, and it has the ability to affect both males and females. It is often noticed as a lump in the breast, but there are many other signs that point to breast cancer. These include a change in the size, shape, or appearance of the breast, changes in the skin, and inverted nipples; peeling, scaling, redness, crusting, flaking, and pitting of the breast skin may also appear. While the exact cause of this cancer is unknown, medical professionals are aware of a number of risk factors. Being female, of older age, being obese, exposure to radiation, drinking alcohol, and a number of other things increase the likelihood of breast cancer. There are also two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, that can be inherited from parents that also increase the risk of breast cancer.
Telehealth, which is the category that telemedicine falls under, has existed for decades and was initially used to reach patients in rural communities. It wasn’t widely adopted due to insurance issues and other obstacles For many, it simply was not seen as necessary. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed this and telemedicine has become the only option for a lot of patients.
For cancer patients specifically, telemedicine has made it so that there are no lapses in the care that patients need. Fortunately, many cancer patients are already familiar with using technology and the internet for their care, so moving into a totally virtual format was not a complete switch.
Emergency room pre-screenings are one of the ways that telehealth was being used before the pandemic started. Cancer patients could use an app to connect with a physician, where they could describe their symptoms and history. Then, when they arrive at the emergency room, they could be met at the door. Other ways that telehealth has been implemented are bedside communication, within clinical trials, remote patient monitoring, and caregiver connections.
Is Telemedicine for Everybody?
While there are a lot of positives to telehealth, there are also some negatives. Not everybody is comfortable with technology or receiving their care through it, and not all forms of healthcare can be administered in a virtual manner. However, medical professionals and those in other fields are working to combat these issues. They are working to choose a platform, educate patients on that platform, and ensure that it runs smoothly. Further innovation in telehealth is also necessary.
While medical professionals are aware that telemedicine can never fully replace in-person visits, they are hopeful that it can reduce the risk that some patients face by physically attending their appointments during the pandemic. It may also be easier and less stressful for some. With more innovation, telehealth can definitely improve healthcare.
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