The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in increased use of telemedicine and video consultations. A majority of hospitals and healthcare facilities across the globe have become COVID care centres in the past 15 months. In several countries, lockdowns have meant that non-COVID patients with an emergency and those undergoing critical illness were allowed to be inpatients while there were restrictions on outpatient visits as well for initially. As a result, patients with chronic conditions such as cancer have had a tough time accessing the necessary treatment.
Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, and Asia accounts for nearly half of the global cancer patient population. Inpatient treatment remained out of bounds for cancer patients given their lowered immunity. In this scenario, outpatient cancer care has emerged as a blessing in disguise during the pandemic. While this is not a new idea, outpatient care for oncology patients has gained slow prominence over the past several years as a critical method that has become beneficial for many patients.
Though inpatient hospital care remains the most critical part of some cancer treatments, outpatient care has become an effective option to help support the needs of numerous cancer patients. According to Steve Paulson, MD, president and chairman of the board of Texas Oncology in Dallas, more than 80 per cent of all cancer care is delivered in outpatient settings. Over the past decade, the shift of cancer care to an outpatient setting has actively encouraged cancer patients to participate in their care's clinical and lifestyle aspects.
Emerging therapies for cancer are expensive, driving up the treatment cost. Several private practice physician groups have now joined hospital-owned oncology clinics and managed care groups.
With a variety of specialty treatment facilities available to them, patients can spend more time in the comfort of their homes while availing cost benefits. According to the American Cancer Society, outpatient treatment covered by private insurance accounts for most cancer care dollars spent each year.
As cancer treatment is highly time-sensitive and quite comprehensive, initiatives or efforts to provide timely care can enhance the quality of life and improve treatment efficacy.
The latest issue of our magazine covers an article on how Outpatient cancer care is improving patient experience. The author, Phoebe Ho, CEO of Integrated Oncology Centres, talks about how an integrated cancer centre is a highly efficient and effective model to serve the needs of cancer patients and alleviate the mounting cancer burden in Asia.