When patients hear the diagnosis “cancer,” the first response is often to panic. They’re ready to drive or fly anywhere to get a second opinion or learn more about the latest clinical trials and treatments.
But with telemedicine, they can get those expert opinions and therapies without ever leaving their local hospital. For example, the Trinity Health system in Michigan is now using remote presence technology to rapidly get second opinions from oncology experts throughout the region.
It all began with some creative thinking at St. Joseph Mercy/Port Huron, which adapted its telestroke robot to do double-duty for oncology. Physicians there discovered that some cancer patients were driving 120 miles round-trip to get second opinions – making a highly stressful situation that much worse.
“This is a very difficult time for patients,” says Kanu Dalal, an oncology MD at the Port Huron facility. “Using telemedicine for a second opinion can ease some of those fears – and it really expedites things when it comes to choosing and starting a treatment.”
Research shows that patients battling cancer prefer to be treated locally, yet they understandably want access to cutting-edge treatment. Remote presence can bring the best surgeons, oncologists and radiologists right to the bedside, ensuring that the patient gets expert advice without spending hundreds of dollars in travel costs.
Because the Port Huron Hospital is part of the Michigan Cancer Center Consortium, patients have access to every national clinical trial and treatment in use today. So they don’t necessarily have to book a flight to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. (From Port Huron, you’d need to drive an hour to Detroit, where round-trip plane fares to Houston for two people would run about $1,000.)
Getting a cancer diagnosis is one of the toughest blows imaginable. The last thing a cancer patient wants to do is start calling travel agents. Remote presence brings a team of experts right to the patient’s home hospital and that’s truly a blessing. No second opinion needed.