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The Evolution of Telemedicine – Considering Patients Who Don’t have WiFi

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May 12, 2021

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By Kayle Waterhouse

As physicians adapt to a world in which connecting with patients over video has become a part of their day to day lives, there is significant debate about the effectiveness of telemedicine. In SurvivorNet’s virtual conference about reducing racial disparities in multiple myeloma, leading oncologists shared different views on telemedicine. 

“Unfortunately, not everybody has internet. There’s unfortunately disparities in WiFi access. There’s kids that I know personally had to go to school in a McDonald’s parking lot, because that was the only place that they can get WiFi,” Dr. Brandon Blue, hematologist-oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet Connect.   

Dr. Blue says that he doesn’t think telemedicine is best for the age group generally diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which is age 65 and up.  “I don’t think the digital experience is really the best way to make a connection with them because they already feel out of sorts with that… I think that we’re missing a big opportunity to touch someone, to put our hand on their shoulder, to look someone in the eye right in front of you and say, ‘Hey, this is the issue, and this is how you can trust me,’” Dr. Blue says. 

While lower income areas may face more challenges with internet access, there are some advantages that do come with telemedicine. 

“We have learned how easy it is for all of us to connect to each other by video and get comfortable,” Dr. Vincent Rajkumar, a hematologist-oncologist at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, says. In fact, Dr. Rajkumar believes telemedicine is an important tool to use to connect with a wider range of patients as they no longer “have to travel and they can get the opinion.” He notes that “… We could go back to our own institutions and say, you know, every week for one hour or two hours, I’m going to do telemedicine for underserved communities.