Accelerated by the pandemic, the use of telehealth has had significant uptake in the last few years, in areas of both primary and specialty care. However, best practices for use of telehealth in providing cancer-related care are not well defined. To research the role of telehealth for cancer care, the US National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced that it will award $23 million to 4 academic institutions over the next 5 years as part of the Telehealth Research Centers of Excellence (TRACE) initiative. The goal of this initiative is to increase understanding of how telehealth can contribute to improved health outcomes in the treatment of cancer.
Each center of excellence will be led by an academic institution with diverse teams of researchers
- The Telehealth Research and Innovation for Veterans with Cancer (THRIVE) Telehealth Research Center will be led by NYU Grossman School of Medicine, New York City, and will evaluate how social factors (eg, race, ethnicity, poverty, and rural residence) affect delivery of telehealth for cancer care
- The Scalable Telehealth Cancer Care (STELLAR) Center will be led by Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, and will focus on reduction of risk behaviors such as smoking and physical inactivity
- The University of Pennsylvania Telehealth Research Center of Excellence (Penn TRACE) will be led by the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, and will compare the impact of multiple telehealth strategies on shared decision-making for lung cancer screening and improvement of access to molecular testing for advanced lung cancer
- The Making Telehealth Delivery of Cancer Care at Home Effective and Safe (MATCHES) Telehealth Research Center will be led by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, and will study the effectiveness of a remote monitoring system for patients receiving systemic treatments for prostate and breast cancers
This research will help clarify the role of telehealth in cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. The centers will also work to identify and address telehealth-related disparities among vulnerable populations, train the next generation of telehealth-focused researchers, and explore opportunities for scalability and dissemination of their cancer-related telehealth interventions beyond their own health systems.
This research is likely to affect the delivery of telehealth for cancer care in the future. Health systems and physician organizations should stay abreast of the results as they are released and be prepared to incorporate telehealth interventions into protocols and guidelines.
This work will pave the way for increased and improved use of telehealth for cancer care over the next 5 to 10 years. Availability of these data will increase the speed of guideline information access for community physicians, and, as a result, improve the care of patients with cancer.