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Telehealth for Preoperative Evaluation of Patients With Breast Cancer During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic drove rapid, widespread adoption of telehealth (TH). We evaluated surgical telehealth utilization and outcomes for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients during the initial pandemic period. Methods We identified patients with breast cancer diagnosed March 17, 2020 through May 17, 2020 who underwent surgery as the initial treatment. Clinicodemographic characteristics were collected. Initial consultation types (office, telephone, or video) were categorized. Outcomes included time to consultation, surgeon touchpoints, time to surgery, surgery types, and reexcision rates. Continuous variables were compared using Mann-Whitney tests or t-tests, and categorical variables were compared using χ2 or Fisher’s exact tests. Results Of 158 patients, 56% had initial telehealth consultations (21% telephone, 35% video) and 42% did not have a preoperative physical examination. Age, race/ethnicity, and stage distributions were similar between initial visit types. Median time to consultation was lower in the initial telehealth group than the office group (6 days vs 9 days, p = 0.01). Other outcomes (surgeon touchpoints, time to surgery, surgery type, reconstruction) were similar between visit types. We observed higher reexcision rates in patients with initial telehealth visits (20% telehealth vs 4% office, p = 0.01), but evaluation was limited by small numbers. The reexcision rate was 13% for patients with telehealth visits and no preoperative physical exam. Discussion During the initial pandemic period, the majority of new breast cancer patients had an initial telehealth surgical consultation. Office and telehealth consultation visits had comparable numbers of postconsultation surgeon touchpoints and most outcomes. Our findings suggest that telehealth consultations may be feasible for preoperative breast cancer consultations.

Authors: Tang, Annie; Arasu, Vignesh A; Liu, Raymond; Habel, Laurel A; Kushi, Lawrence H; Chang, Sharon B; et al.

Perm J. 2022 06 29;26(2):54-63. Epub 2022-06-15.

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