The COVID-19 pandemic broadly curtailed access to cancer care and highlighted the need to meet patients “where they are,” which included remote access provisions. This need triggered multiple policy changes in 2020 that have accelerated adoption of telehealth strategies and impacted how patients with cancer receive care nationwide. In a survey conducted by the Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF) from 2019 through 2020, 64% of patients with cancer changed the way they accessed/received care during the pandemic, 66% experienced their first telehealth visit, and 77% felt that telehealth was beneficial (PAF, data unpublished, 2021). The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), signed into law on March 27, 2020, included a provision allowing the Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services to waive certainrequirements for Medicare telehealth payment that existed prior to the pandemic, expanding the range of telehealth services qualifying for reimbursement.1
Although expanded coverage and reimbursement for telehealth has been instituted during the public health emergency, it remains unclear what policies will persist after this immediate crisis has subsided. The finalized 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule2 makes permanent reimbursement of select codes and extends certain temporary codes until the end of the year in which the pandemic is last declared a public health emergency by section 319 of the Public Health Service Act.
CMS.gov. CY 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule. Accessed February 9, 2021. Available at: https://www.cms.gov/medicaremedicare-fee-service-paymentphysicianfeeschedpfs-federal-regulation-notices/cms-1734-f
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. COVID-19 resources. Accessed May 23, 2021. Available at: https://www.nccn.org/ covid-19
ASCO special report: a guide to cancer care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Accessed May 3, 2021. Available at: https://www.asco.org/sites/new-www.asco.org/files/content-files/2020-ASCO-Guide-Cancer-COVID19.pdf
Lewis GD, Hatch SS, Wiederhold LR, et al. Long-term institutional experience with telemedicine services for radiation oncology: a potential model for long-term utilization. Adv Radiat Oncol 2020;5:780–782.
Bradbury A, Patrick-Miller L, Harris D, et al. Utilizing remote real-time videoconferencing to expand access to cancer genetic services in community practices: a multicenter feasibility study. J Med Internet Res 2016; 18:e23.
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, Bradbury A , Patrick-Miller L , Harris D Utilizing remote real-time videoconferencing to expand access to cancer genetic services in community practices: a multicenter feasibility study. J Med Internet Res 2016; 18: e23. 26831751 10.2196/jmir.4564
Sprague SL, Holschuh C. Telemedicine versus clinic visit: a pilot study of patient satisfaction and recall of diet and exercise recommendations from survivorship care plans. Clin J Oncol Nurs 2019;23: 639–646.
Ferrell BR, Temel JS, Temin S, et al. Integration of palliative care into standard oncology care: American Society of Clinical Oncology clinical practice guideline update. J Clin Oncol 2017;35:96–112.
Roberts ET, Mehrotra A. Assessment of disparities in digital access among medicare beneficiaries and implications for telemedicine. JAMA Intern Med 2020;180:1386–1389.
Telehealth flexibilities helping people have uninterrupted access to cancer care should continue after the pandemic. News release. Association for Clinical Oncology. May 11, 2021. Accessed November 23, 2021. Available at: https://bit.ly/3oidUOP