Between travel time and expenses, missed work hours, and other factors, cancer care visits cost patients more than just a copay. A new study quantified the financial benefits of conducting those visits via telehealth versus in person, with researchers reporting that patients saved more than $150 in expenses and three hours in travel and waiting time per visit by using telehealth. They published their findings in JAMA Network Open.
The researchers evaluated cost savings for 11,688 patients younger than age 65 who completed 25,496 telehealth visits at a National Cancer Institute–designated comprehensive cancer center from April 1, 2020–June 30, 2021. They found that patients saved an average of 2.9 hours of round-trip driving time, 1.2 hours of in-clinic time, and $147–$186 in related expenses per visit.
Most of the visits (82.3%) were for follow-up care, and the researchers said that patients’ overall savings may have been even higher if they had included caregivers’ costs in their evaluation because patients and caregivers often “function as a unit” with additional shared expenses.
“Patients with cancer spend a substantial amount of time and money traveling to receive care,” the researchers concluded. “We found that cancer care delivery via telehealth was associated with time, travel, and cost savings for patients with cancer, which may reduce the financial toxicity of cancer care. Future studies should explore other cost savings, such as the savings to cancer caregivers and how these vary for rural and urban patients with cancer.”
As the cost of cancer care skyrockets, saving money on office visits can help reduce patients’ overall economic burden. Financial toxicity and teleoncology are two of ONS’s health policy priorities in 2023. Learn more about the issues and how ONS can help you promote change—then begin by raising awareness among your colleagues with ONS’s Financial Toxicity Huddle Card™.