Telehealth has found its way into the lives of many, ranging from newborn babies to aging adults. As time has gone on, more and more patients are opting for telehealth appointments. Now, even patients suffering from more serious diseases, like cancer are starting to utilize remote care for some of their doctor appointments. People with certain cancers, like mesothelioma, are prime candidates for telehealth appointments. Multiple factors such as age, complications, and a lack of specialists are all reasons why virtual appointments are a great option for both caregivers and people suffering from conditions like mesothelioma.
With Mesothelioma Awareness Day around the corner on September 26th, it’s important to note how caregivers can help those in need, especially as in-home care and virtual visits become more prevalent.
Identifying Mesothelioma Through Virtual Appointments
A patient cannot be diagnosed with mesothelioma without visiting a doctor in person as they will need to go through thorough tests, such as physicals, bloodwork, imaging, and scans. So while a virtual visit will not be able to identify if someone has mesothelioma, these appointments could lead to a patient getting tested if they complain about common symptoms.
Mesothelioma, like any other cancer, is difficult to detect, but certain symptoms of this cancer make it even harder to identify early on. First, this cancer’s latency period ranges anywhere from 10-50 years. This means that after someone is exposed to the carcinogens that cause mesothelioma they will not have symptoms until years later. Besides the latency period, these symptoms are often mild when they first appear, which can cause a person to ignore them until they worsen.
Virtual appointments open the possibility of having a more constant line of communication between patients and their care teams. This means that the minute a patient realizes something new going on with their body, even if it is seemingly benign, they can at least let their doctor know instead of waiting for it to progress enough to warrant an in-person visit. This constant communication is especially critical in diagnosing mesothelioma. If an older patient lets their team know they have been experiencing any symptoms such as coughing, chest pain, abdominal pain, or weight loss, then they can receive extra attention and get tested earlier for mesothelioma and other lung ailments.
As time goes on, telehealth should lead to more people telling their doctors about smaller issues that could eventually turn into bigger ones. This should allow doctors to have a more complete understanding of each of their patient’s health and will help detect ailments earlier.
Long and Short Term Care
While virtual care will never outweigh the benefits that come with in-person care, a hybrid case of these can be beneficial. If a case is found early on, there are plenty of options for care that can be given. In these situations, hybrid care can offer the most normalcy to your patients while still providing a high level of care. In scenarios where life isn’t exactly normal, this can help ease the minds of your patient and their family.
Taking a look at short-term cancers, however, can be fairly different. The life expectancy for mesothelioma can range from 18 to 31 months, but with the right care, can create survivors rather than just numbers in a statistic. Common treatments for mesothelioma and other cancers are radiation and surgery, but some alternative options include: nutritional supplements, mind-body therapies, and support groups. These can help relieve the side effects that come with these standard treatments.
In either case, offering solutions for at-home care can really make a difference. Whether it’s home health after a doctor’s visit or just a few questions, being available to chat and keep your patient at ease in times of distress can be a huge help. In fact, a study showed that 83% of patients would actually want to use telehealth as we move forward in our forever-changing digital world.
Making Treatment Easier
Once diagnosed with a disease like mesothelioma, maintaining communication through treatment is the easiest way to help patients not feel so alone. Numerous doctor visits, blood tests, and scans, it can make a person feel less human. Personalized care is more important now than ever because so much of the world, doctor visits included, are becoming far less personal. are less and less personal.
After being diagnosed with any form of cancer, a patient will have a large list of appointments they will need to attend. Now, on top of having a debilitating disease, patients have to muster up the strength to sit at the doctor’s office for hours on end. This can all become overwhelming, especially since living with chronic cancers can lead to years of treatments, often extending after someone is cancer free.
For cancers with lower life expectancies, like mesothelioma, which has a range of 18-31 months on average, providing great primary care becomes even more important in order to maintain a connection with patients who may be stuck in specialized treatment offices. In-office care plays a huge part in keeping patients happy, but often appointments can run long and lead to less personalized healthcare. Studies have shown that time in a doctor’s office has exceeded planned time by about a third, and can create burned-out doctors, physicians, patients, and caregivers.
By having a patient-centered program, caregivers can assign the right resources to each patient. Instead of having a group of people to go through to get information, everything is at your fingertips. When your telehealth call starts, you have all the information you need to help your patient, whether it’s as a registered nurse, a physician, or a specialized provider. These tools will make answering questions regarding their diagnosis along with anything else easier.
As we move into a more technology-based world, it’s important to keep up, even if we don’t want to. Smaller interactions like doctor’s visits and check-ups are becoming less personal, due to the technology being used, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Using telehealth to your advantage can not only increase the performance of your team but also keep your patients happy, even in moments that can feel isolating.