COVID-19 has changed many things about the healthcare industry. The increased need for full staff, better protection to prevent transmission, and new technologies are some of the most essential aspects of this pandemic. For cancer patients, modern technology has explicitly helped bridge gaps and connect them with their family and caregivers.
The novel coronavirus has created divides for cancer patients. Some must remain in hospitals while others try to social distance from home. Regardless, telehealth, home devices, and in-hospital technology are three main areas that are helping cancer patients during this time.
Cancer patients are among those most at risk for contracting COVID-19. Due to this issue, telehealth, or telemedicine, has become the standard for connecting patients and healthcare providers from a distance.
Telemedicine includes any technology that allows a way to provide healthcare — from video or voice calls to prescribing medicine. As the pandemic has gone into full swing, individuals and those with compromised immune systems must try to maintain as much distance from other people as possible.
No matter what stage of cancer someone is battling, telehealth can help. The apps that make telehealth possible can track data, keep notes, manage medication schedules, contact healthcare provides, and more. Wearable devices, like smartwatches, transmit vitals to health professionals to monitor in real-time. Important aspects of cancer detection, like being able to track the metabolism of cancerous tumors, become more feasible. This connection also allows for fast action in emergencies.
Beyond physical health, mental health is also a critical factor during this pandemic. Telehealth can connect cancer patients with psychologists or psychiatrists virtually.
For cancer patients that must remain in hospitals for treatment, technology can help there as well. The innovations that will most benefit hospital workers and patients revolve around contact tracing and expanding testing.
Contact tracing is the ability to locate individuals with COVID-19 and see who they have come in contact with. This innovation helps monitor the spread of the disease to better treat and isolate it. With this type of tracing, hospitals can take improved precautions to keep cancer patients safe. Most hospitals are trying to keep cancer wings COVID-19-free. With contact tracing, that process becomes much more manageable.
Testing is the next feat that technology needs to tackle. As states across the country begin to reopen, many leaders incorporate the need for more testing as a crucial step. Additionally, most Americans agree with the demand for testing — it must be instant, and there needs to be more testing per day. For cancer patients, faster and more accessible testing is necessary. With it, they can receive treatment faster, and doctors can isolate them accordingly.
Connecting in Isolation
Many people must isolate or quarantine themselves away from loved ones to do their part in slowing the spread of the virus. For cancer patients, this act is especially important. Luckily, many platforms can connect people during this difficult time.
Apps like Zoom, Skype, Discord, and FaceTime are providing ways for people to connect through video and voice calls instantly. Social distancing will affect mental health during this pandemic, so it’s vital to communicate with loved ones in any way possible.
For cancer patients, the added weight of risk factors can lead to extra anxiety. Since many cancer patients experience mental health effects, they need to seek support, and technology is providing that bridge.
Elsewhere, home assistant apps like Google Home can help with household tasks that could be hard for some patients. Delivery apps, too, can reduce the need to grocery shop and risk exposure.
The technology that was once a luxury is now becoming essential for many people, especially cancer patients.
The Future of Telehealth
Now that the use of telehealth to treat and monitor cancer patients has drastically increased, this dynamic will most likely become the norm for the future. Even after the virus passes, limiting public exposure for cancer patients will be the main priority.
Technology provides accessibility for those who need it. A cancer patient may no longer need to leave their home for a health visit when they’re recovering. Doctors can receive real-time updates about their patients’ health to act quickly should they need to. These updates are possible because of technology but are now becoming standard because of COVID-19.