Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed cancer care with the rapid expansion of telemedicine, but given the limited use of telemedicine in oncology, concerns have been raised about the quality of care being delivered. We assessed the patient experience with telemedicine in routine radiation oncology practice to determine satisfaction, quality of care, and opportunities for optimization. Patients and Methods: Patients seen within a multistate comprehensive cancer center for prepandemic office visits and intrapandemic telemedicine visits in December 2019 through June 2020 who completed patient experience questionnaires were evaluated. Patient satisfaction between office and telemedicine consultations were compared, patient visit-type preferences were assessed, and factors associated with an office visit preference were determined. Results: In total, 1,077 patients were assessed (office visit, n=726; telemedicine, n=351). The telemedicine-consult survey response rate was 40%. No significant differences were seen in satisfaction scores between office and telemedicine consultations, including the appointment experience versus expectation, quality of physician’s explanation, and level of physician concern and friendliness. Among telemedicine survey respondents, 45% and 34% preferred telemedicine and office visits, respectively, and 21% had no preference for their visit type. Most respondents found their confidence in their physician (90%), understanding of the treatment plan (88%), and confidence in their treatment (87%) to be better or no different than with an office visit. Patients with better performance status and who were married/partnered were more likely to prefer in-person office visit consultations (odds ratio [OR], 1.04 [95% CI, 1.00–1.08]; P=.047, and 2.41 [95% CI, 1.14–5.47]; P=.009, respectively). Patients with telephone-only encounters were more likely to report better treatment plan understanding with an office visit (OR, 2.25; 95% CI, 1.00–4.77; P=.04). Conclusions: This study is the first to assess telemedicine in routine radiation oncology practice, and found high patient satisfaction and confidence in their care. Optimization of telemedicine in oncology should be a priority, specifically access to audiovisual capabilities that can improve patient–oncologist communication.
Narek Shaverdian, Erin F. Gillespie, Elaine Cha, Soo Young Kim, Stephanie Benvengo, Fumiko Chino, Jung Julie Kang, Yuelin Li, Thomas M. Atkinson, Nancy Lee, Charles M. Washington, Oren Cahlon, and Daniel R. Gomez
Matthew S. Ning, Prajnan Das, David I. Rosenthal, Bouthaina S. Dabaja, Zhongxing Liao, Joe Y. Chang, Daniel R. Gomez, Ann H. Klopp, G. Brandon Gunn, Pamela K. Allen, Paige L. Nitsch, Rachel B. Natter, Tina M. Briere, Joseph M. Herman, Rebecca Wells, Albert C. Koong, and Mary Frances McAleer
Background: Palliative radiotherapy (RT) is effective, but some patients die during treatment or too soon afterward to experience benefit. This study investigates end-of-life RT patterns to inform shared decision-making and facilitate treatment consistent with palliative goals. Materials and Methods: All patients who died ≤6 months after initiating palliative RT at an academic cancer center between 2015 and 2018 were identified. Associations with time-to-death, early mortality (≤30 days), and midtreatment mortality were analyzed. Results: In total, 1,620 patients died ≤6 months from palliative RT initiation, including 574 (34%) deaths at ≤30 days and 222 (14%) midtreatment. Median survival was 43 days from RT start (95% CI, 41–45) and varied by site (P<.001), ranging from 36 (head and neck) to 53 days (dermal/soft tissue). On multivariable analysis, earlier time-to-death was associated with osseous (hazard ratio [HR], 1.33; P<.001) and head and neck (HR, 1.45; P<.001) sites, multiple RT courses ≤6 months (HR, 1.65; P<.001), and multisite treatments (HR, 1.40; P=.008), whereas stereotactic technique (HR, 0.77; P<.001) and more recent treatment year (HR, 0.82; P<.001) were associated with longer survival. No difference in time to death was noted among patients prescribed conventional RT in 1 to 10 versus >10 fractions (median, 40 vs 47 days; P=.272), although the latter entailed longer courses. The 30-day mortality group included 335 (58%) inpatients, who were 27% more likely to die midtreatment (P=.031). On multivariable analysis, midtreatment mortality among these inpatients was associated with thoracic (odds ratio [OR], 2.95; P=.002) and central nervous system (CNS; OR, 2.44; P=.002) indications, >5-fraction courses (OR, 3.27; P<.001), and performance status of 3 to 4 (OR, 1.63; P=.050). Conversely, palliative/supportive care consultation was associated with decreased midtreatment mortality (OR, 0.60; P=.045). Conclusions: Earlier referrals and hypofractionated courses (≤5–10 treatments) should be routinely considered for palliative RT indications, given the short life expectancies of patients at this stage in their disease course. Providers should exercise caution for emergent thoracic and CNS indications among inpatients with poor prognoses due to high midtreatment mortality.