Oncology leaders from across the country convened this past week at the ACCC 47th Annual Meeting & Cancer Center Business Summit to explore how cancer care has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
CancerIQ was featured in two sessions at the virtual meeting:, highlighting the role of virtual preventive oncology in the pandemic and beyond.
Policy Considerations for Adopting and Expanding Telehealth at Your Cancer Program: CancerIQ CEO Feyi Olopade Ayodele first spoke on a panel about how to navigate the policy landscape when building virtual preventive oncology programs.
Keeping Patients Connected to Telegenetics—During and Beyond COVID-19: Furthering the discussion, Mallory Kirby of Advisory Board, and Rachel McConachie, RN, BSN, and Ashley Navarro, MS, LCGC, of Dignity Health Cancer Institute, presented a session about how telegenetic counseling, supported by CancerIQ’s platform, proved a resilient strategy to improve patient access and provider capacity for preventive cancer care during the pandemic.
Here are the five top takeaways from the sessions:
1. Virtual preventive oncology is here to stay.Cancer centers like Dignity Health’s found offering cancer risk assessments, genetic testing and counseling in a virtual setting improved patient access and provider capacity during the pandemic. These virtual services also have long-term potential to help cancer centers address persistent challenges, like the shortage of providers with genetic counseling expertise. “[Telehealth] truly can make a lot of these services more equitable and accessible to all patients in an oncology program,” Mrs. Ayodele said.
2. Going virtual brings benefits to the table.“Historically, genetic counseling has been treated as a stopgap when programs can’t provide in-person genetic counseling — due to genetic counselor recruitment, funding, or patient access,” Ms. Kirby said. “However virtual genetic counseling has a variety of unique strengths that can be harnessed to run at your organization’s strategic goals.”
- Some unique strengths of a telegenetic counseling program like Dignity Health’s, for example:
- Improved patient satisfaction, stemming from convenience, decreased wait times and engagement opportunities beyond the appointment.
- Better long-term risk management, as patients are primed to engage virtually.
- Program differentiation, based on exceptional virtual service.
3. Virtual care requires infrastructure beyond the traditional audio visual technology.
“Visual aids, communication tools and other devices are needed above and beyond the face-to-face because without that, it truly is an inferior patient experience,” Mrs. Ayodele said. This is especially true when it comes to preventive oncology, when a genetic counselor may refer to family pedigrees and other visual aids to support patient understanding. That’s one reason why Dignity Health chose CancerIQ to support its telegenetic counseling program and create a virtual experience on par with in-person appointments.
4. Reimbursement is an ongoing challenge.
“Reimbursement in some areas has been generous, but it’s been missing in areas where telehealth is actually the most effective — social support, genetic counselors, patient navigators — services that may have been covered by facility fees,” Mrs. Ayodele said. These areas present opportunities for advocacy to ensure telehealth is sustainable in the long-term. Organizations from across the industry should be working to demonstrate how telehealth benefits patients to push for improved telehealth reimbursement.
5. Even with reimbursement challenges, downstream revenue helps build a business case for virtual services.
Offering virtual preventive services can help cancer centers capture patients with elevated risk who may need additional imaging, procedures or preventive services to support detection and prevention. “We are not a clinic that currently bills for genetic counseling appointments,” Mrs. Navarro said. “It was ideal to have insight into estimated downstream revenue based on patients’ eligibility for specific screening and prevention procedures, which we could recommend directly in the CancerIQ program.”
Want to learn more? Listen to ACCC’s Cancer Buzz podcast to hear our CEO discuss the trends that were pushing virtual preventive oncology to the forefront before the pandemic, and how COVID-19 further refined this frontier in cancer care.