A Novel Pilot Study of Telemedicine in Pediatric Cancer Survivor Transitions

February 14, 2019

A group of researchers from the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh published findings from a new telemedicine pilot study examining the benefits of the technology in transitioning survivors from the oncology clinic to the primary care clinic. Jean M. Tersak, MD, director of the Survivorship Program and principal investigator of the Children’s Oncology Group, and colleagues from the Division and the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing published their findings in December 2017 in the Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology.

Their pilot study points out that with the growing number of pediatric cancer patients surviving into adulthood, there is a need to develop better models of transition of care from the pediatric oncologist to the adult primary care provider. Dr. Tersak’s group sought to understand from a group of primary care providers and childhood cancer survivors their assessment of the use of the telemedicine technology during a regular office visit while discussing aspects of transition with a member of Pediatric Survivorship Clinic. A structured post-visit questionnaire was given to individuals from 19 transition visits. Survey results indicate that both the primary care providers and the survivors felt better versed and more comfortable in the care. This pilot study will provide a foundation for further research in the areaby Dr. Tersak and her colleagues in the Survivorship Clinic.

The transition process is complex and highly individualized. Long-term childhood cancer survivors have needs that go beyond their basic primary care. Late effects of cancer treatments are a potential for many survivors and may appear months to even years after completion of therapy. Geographical barriers between where individuals may have received their oncology care versus where they are receiving their primary care as survivors can be challenging. The use of telemedicine consults to overcome this barrier has the ability to facilitate ongoing communications during the transition process that would otherwise be difficult or time consuming. As their paper concludes, more research is needed to standardize what these telemedicine consults should consist of, and how they can be evaluated to provide meaningful feedback for further refinement and improvement of the telemedicine process.

To learn more about the Survivorship Clinic at UPMC Children’s, its clinical programs, resources, and ongoing research projects, please visit CHP.edu/Cancer.

References and Further Reading

1 Costello AG, Nugent BD, Conover N, Moore A, Dempsey K, Tersak JM. Shared Care of Childhood Cancer Survivors: A Telemedicine Feasibility Study. J Adolesc Young Adult Oncol. 2017 Dec; 6(4): 535-541. Epub ahead of print.
2 Nugent BD, Moore A, Costello A, Lewarchik AM, Tersak JM. Partnering to Optimize Care of Childhood Cancer Surviors. J Fam Pract. 2017; 66(4): E1-E6. Review.
3 Nugent BD, Bender CM, Sereika SM, Tersak JM, Rosenzweig M. Cognitive and Occupational Function in Survivors of Adolescent Cancer. J Adolesc Young Adult Oncol. 2018; 7(1): 79-87.