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Telemedicine and Cancer Care: Today’s Learnings for a Post-Pandemic World

By Rashid L. Bashshur, PhD

Rashid Bashshur, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Department of Health Management and Policy; Executive Director
UMHS eHealth Center

Rashid L. Bashshur, PhD, is executive director of eHealth at the University of Michigan Health System and emeritus professor of health management and policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Since the early 1970s, he has been a catalyst for the development and evaluation of telemedicine systems in the U.S. He has published extensively on telemedicine, maintains an active speaking schedule, and works closely with policymakers at institutional, state, national, and international levels. In 1994, he cofounded the Telemedicine Journal with Mark Goldberg, and served as senior editor of three reports on telemedicine that were submitted to the U.S. Congress (1994, 1995, and 2001).

Dr. Bashshur is the recipient of several honors and awards, including the NASA Group Achievement Award; special appreciation from Eastman Kodak; the University of Arizona Founders Award; recognition for service from the American Telemedicine Association; Partners HealthCare Leadership Award; and the Individual Leadership Award for contributions to the development of telemedicine worldwide from the American Telemedicine Association.

November 20, 2020

Despite a century-long history and a substantial body of recent empirical evidence that attests to its clinical and economic effectiveness and improved access, telemedicine has yet to become a routine part of clinical practice for the majority of clinicians. If used appropriately, it can serve as an effective substitute for in-person care which does not require physical examination in nearly all facets of the medical care process, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment, monitoring, and follow-up.

The COVID-19 pandemic altered the medical landscape dramatically, and while most clinicians transitioned promptly to telemedicine, many were ill-prepared for the rapid conversion. Indeed, telemedicine has become an essential component of care at least for the duration of the pandemic. Its current widespread use has been aided by the suspension of preceding restrictive regulations and rules (though not uniformly observed in all states) regarding conditions for reimbursement, interstate medical licensing, synchronous videoconferencing, confidentiality, compliance, and patient residential location. Recent speculation has focused on whether some, or all, of these regulations will be reinstated after successful mediation of COVID-19. Total reinstatement is not likely. In any case, states will retain control over medical practice licensing, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will likely find ways to limit its financial exposure to unrestrained use of service.
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The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s)/faculty member(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of their employer(s) or the Association of Community Cancer Centers.