At the start of 2020, the world experienced its first pandemic of the 21st century. Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread around the world, affecting millions and the current death toll stands at over 3 million.1
In late March 2020, the Australian Government expanded the Medicare-subsided telehealth services amidst the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.2
Prior to the pandemic, the utilisation of telephone follow-up within oncology patients had been demonstrated across a variety of tumour groups.3, 4, 5
The aim of this project was to determine the percentage...
Methods and materials
Study design and patient population
The study was approved by the ACT Health Human Research Ethics Committee. This was a retrospective review of radiation oncology outpatient services at The Canberra Hospital located in Garran, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.
A dataset was obtained via a deidentified report created from the department’s oncological information system (ARIA) spanning a 10-week period; from 23 March to 28 May 2020.
From this report, demographic data was collated including medical record numbers, dates of birth, suburbs and state/territory of...
During the ten-week period, a total of 1159 consultations were performed across 973 patients.
Approximately sixty percent (700) of all consultations were performed by telephone/telehealth, with less than one percent of these by telehealth (4). The remaining forty percent of consultations were conducted face-to-face.
While initial consultations were more commonly performed face-to-face than via telephone/telehealth, the majority of follow-up consultations were conducted via telephone than face-to-face (Figure 1).
Subsequent face-to-face consultation
Sixty-six (9% of all telephone/telehealth) patients required a subsequent face-to-face consultation following...
A large proportion of radiation oncology appointments can be completed using telephone/telehealth, with a relatively small number of these requiring subsequent face-to-face appointments.
Patients with tumour subsites that were more easily surveilled radiologically or biochemically, rather than direct physical examination, were less likely to require subsequent face-to-face consultations following telephone/telehealth consults.
This study adds to the global experience of radiation oncology departments providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic. At present, this is the only identifiable study during the pandemic of its kind.
In the post-pandemic...
1. World Health Organisation [Internet]. WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard. ; 2021 [cited 2021 May 26]. Available from: https://covid19.who.int/
2. Commonwealth of Australia; Department of Health [Internet]. COVID-19: Whole of population telehealth for patients, general practice, primary care and other medical services (2020, March).
Available from: https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/covid-19-whole-of-population-telehealth-for-patients-general-practice-primary-care-and-other-medical-services
3. Kimman ML, Dirksen CD, Voogd AC, et al. Nurse-led telephone follow-up and an educational group programme after breast cancer treatment: results of a 2 × 2 randomised controlled trial. Eur J Cancer 2011; 47(7): 1027‐1036.