COVID-19 forced healthcare providers to pivot to digital health, but an estimated 70% of patients still deferred or canceled their care, including routine cancer screening. Technology is an essential tool in cancer care, according to Abigail Baldwin-Medsker, MSN, RN, OCN®, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, who presented a session at the ONS BridgeTM virtual conference on September 16, 2021.

“Technology can create connection and engagement and assist in the delivery of quality care for patients along their cancer journey,” Baldwin-Medsker said, emphasizing the unique role of nursing leaders in leading and influencing that work.

Patients report high satisfaction rates and interest in using digital health. Baldwin-Medsker outlined the value drivers of a digital health program, including expanding reach and influence, improving patient outcomes, and decreasing costs of care.

Digital health technologies encompass electronic collection of patient-reported outcomes, digital therapeutics, early detection and prevention, and telehealth. Baldwin-Medsker said that electronic patient-reported outcomes help nurses promote standard of care, support clinical research, track symptom management over time, and increase patient engagement, overall survival rates, and quality of life.

Several clinical trials also are underway to assess the value of digital health programs. Some are evaluating remote patient monitoring devices, which collect health data from individuals in one location and transmit it to providers elsewhere for assessment and recommendations.

Another area of focus is evidence-based care pathways or implementing interventions that use wearables and wireless devices. Digital health technologies also can help to provide genetic screening, testing, and counseling to high-risk populations. Other innovations include artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and smart homes.

“Technology has become part of the care team,” Baldwin-Medsker said, emphasizing the need to focus on measuring results and narrowing the digital divide. “Reach patients where they are, with targeted relevant content that addresses their personal health questions. Nurses are key to healing. We humanize and normalize digital health.”

Rika Gotico, MSHI, BSN, RN-BC, also from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, provided nursing considerations, tips, and tricks to keep in mind while providing care through telehealth.

She said that prior to engaging in telehealth, nurses should check with institutional guidelines regarding the telehealth technology approved in the organization and follow the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in protecting health information. Nurses also should protect their own privacy by not using personal accounts or a personal phone for patient interactions. If the only option you have is to use your personal phone, Gotico suggested adding *67 before the telephone number to block your number from showing in the caller ID.

Gotico recommended the following tips for conducting telehealth visits:

  • Prepare for the visit as you would with an in-person visit. Review the patient chart and set an agenda. Plan your time.
  • Make sure your internet is reliable and your video and audio are working properly.
  • The best lighting is directly in front of or above you.
  • View the camera head-on, not to the side, and look directly into the camera to speak to the patient.
  • Limit distractions, wear appropriate clothing, and use an appropriate background.
  • Introduce yourself and confirm the patient’s identity. Be sure the patient’s environment is conducive to the visit as well.
  • Confirm the patient’s phone number in case you are disconnected.
  • When ending, summarize and create a follow-up plan if needed.