Telehealth’s uncertain future raises alarm bells for cancer patients

The relaxation of telehealth regulations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a wave of interest and support, with patients noting the convenience, discretion and safety of virtual care as major selling points.  

But another, perhaps less publicized advantage of telemedicine is the availability of specialists for patients – particularly those with chronic diseases such as cancer.  

Jenny Ahlstrom, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2010, says the recent changes have made it clear just how big a role virtual care can play for people with cancer and other chronic diseases.   

About 32,000 people will be diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells, every year. And despite advancement in treatments, said Ahlstrom in an interview with Healthcare IT News, “we still have 50% of patients dying after five years.” In Ahlstrom’s experience, myeloma patients benefit from access to a specialist – and, preferably, second opinions.

“General oncologists are trying to do a lot with what they have,” she said. “But 95% of myeloma patients relapse. You’re constantly reassessing your needs.”

Ahlstrom, who was a systems engineer and marketing representative for IBM before her diagnosis, says she wanted to treat addressing her disease like a “startup,”