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Optimizing Telehealth for Older Adults with Cancer

August 9, 2022

As the world’s population ages rapidly, it’s expected that those over the age of 65 will make up 15.9 percent of the total global population by 2050 (a significant growth from 9.1 percent in 2020). Cancer incidence is also higher in adults 65 years or older—one of the largest oncology patient populations. Therefore, cancer programs and practices need to provide dedicated and dynamic person-centered care to meet the needs of this growing group. 

The American Society of Clinical Oncology and National Comprehensive Cancer Network both include geriatric oncology and geriatric assessment within their clinical practice guidelines. And by providing these services to patients, multidisciplinary cancer care teams can better meet these patients’ unique needs, for example, higher chemotherapy intolerance and toxicity. Yet comprehensive geriatric assessment and interventions are not offered by all cancer programs and practices.

To help its members develop and implement a geriatric oncology clinic that can flex with the changing population and medical and scientific advances, ACCC held a webinar with Leana Cabrera Chien, MSN, RN, GCNS-BC, GNP-BC, a nurse practitioner at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., to glean insights and learnings from City of Hope’s advanced practice nurse (APN)-led geriatric oncology clinic. 

In addressing why such a clinic should exist within every cancer program and practice across the nation, Chien states that “building a geriatric oncology clinic really looks at how can we [healthcare providers] meet a need that is unmet. It’s an opportunity to improve access to care for patients, who have difficulty with transportation or who may live in rural communities, via telehealth. And that’s really an opportunity to address a critical need to improve the care of our older adults with cancer.”

Throughout the webinar, Chien addresses the challenges her team faced in implementing geriatric oncology services, and she debunks common myths providers believe regarding older adult’s comfort levels with technology. Additionally, Chien shares why video-based telehealth is so important to a comprehensive geriatric clinic versus more traditional telephone-based telehealth care. 

City of Hope’s geriatric oncology clinic is “a direct result of putting resource into practice,” Chien says. “It’s a great forum for utilizing geriatric-assessment-driven interventions.” In collaboration with its APN leads and the multidisciplinary cancer care team, City of Hope relies on a flexible telehealth-based clinic to see and care for its geriatric patient population at times when it is convenient for patients and families and within the comfort of their homes.

To learn more about the benefits of developing a telehealth-based geriatric oncology clinic, including the importance of the patient experience when addressing aging patient-specific needs and preferences, register and watch ACCC’s “Digital Bridges: Optimizing Telehealth for Older Adults With Cancer” webinar.

This webinar is part of the ACCC education program Digital Bridges. This project is supported by Merck.

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