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The safety and acceptability of using telehealth for follow-up of patients following cancer surgery: A systematic review

Published:September 08, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejso.2022.08.037

      Abstract

      Introduction

      Although virtual consultations have played an increasing role in delivery of healthcare, the COVID-19 pandemic has hastened their adoption. Furthermore, virtual consultations are now being adopted in areas that were previously considered unsuitable, including post-operative visits for patients undergoing major surgical procedures, and surveillance following cancer operations. This review aims to examine the feasibility, safety, and patient satisfaction with virtual follow-up appointments after cancer operations.

      Methods

      A systematic review was conducted along PRISMA guidelines. Studies where patients underwent surgical resection of a malignancy with at least one study arm describing virtual follow-ups were included. Studies were assessed for quality. Outcomes including adverse events, detection of recurrence and patient and provider satisfaction were assessed and compared for those undergoing virtual or in-person post-operative visits.

      Results

      Eleven studies, with 3369 patients were included. Cancer types included were gynecological, colorectal, esophageal, lung, thyroid, breast, prostate and major HPB resections. Detection of recurrence and readmission rates were similar when comparing virtual consultations with in-person visits. Most studies showed high patient and healthcare provider satisfaction with virtual consultations following cancer resection. Concerns were raised about the integration of virtual consultations into workflows in fee-for-service settings, where reimbursement for virtual care may be an issue.

      Conclusion

      Virtual follow-up care can provide timely and safe consultations in surgical oncology. Virtual consultations are as safe as in-person visits for assessing complications and recurrence. Where appropriate, virtual consultations can safely be integrated into the post-operative care pathway for those undergoing resection of malignancy.
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