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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys ; 108(2): 421-429, 2020 Oct 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-739869


PURPOSE: Telemedicine was rapidly implemented for initial consultations and radiation treatment planning in the wake of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. In this study, we explore utilization of and physician perspectives on this approach in an attempt to identify patient populations that may benefit most from virtual care. METHODS AND MATERIALS: This is a mixed-methods study with a convergent design. Approximately 6 to 8 weeks after implementation of telemedicine, all radiation oncologists in a single academic radiation oncology department were invited to participate in either semistructured interviews with embedded survey questions or a concurrently administered survey only. Rapid qualitative analysis was used to identify common themes, and quantitative data was assessed using descriptive statistics and univariable analyses. RESULTS: At the apex of the pandemic, 92% of radiation oncology visits were conducted via telemedicine. In total, 51 of 61 radiation oncologists participated in the study (response rate 84%). Most (71%) reported no difference in ability to treat cancer appropriately via telemedicine, which was more common among specialized physicians (P = .01) but not those with higher visit volume or years of experience. Over half (55%) perceived no difference or even improvement in overall visit quality with telemedicine. Virtual visits were deemed acceptable for a median of 70% to 96% of patients, which varied by disease site. Need for physical examination, and availability of an acceptable proxy, factored into telemedicine acceptability. Most (88%) found telemedicine better than expected, but opinions were split on how telemedicine would affect physician burnout. Almost all (96%) foresaw a role for telemedicine beyond the pandemic and would opt for a median of 50% (interquartile range 20%-66%) of visits conducted via telemedicine. CONCLUSIONS: Among radiation oncologists in an academic setting, telemedicine was perceived to be highly appropriate and acceptable for most patients. Future studies should focus on identifying the 5% to 30% of patients whose care may be optimized with in-person visits, and if there is alignment with patient preferences.

Perception , Radiation Oncologists/psychology , Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted , Referral and Consultation , Telemedicine , Attitude to Computers , COVID-19 , Coronavirus Infections/epidemiology , Female , Humans , Male , Pandemics , Pneumonia, Viral/epidemiology , Surveys and Questionnaires