The Society for Integrative Oncology Practice Recommendations for online consultation and treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic

Support Care Cancer. 2021 Oct;29(10):6155-6165. doi: 10.1007/s00520-021-06205-w. Epub 2021 Apr 14.


Objective: The Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) Online Task Force was created in response to the challenges facing continuity of integrative oncology care resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Task Force set out to guide integrative oncology practitioners in providing effective and safe online consultations and treatments for quality-of-life-concerns and symptom management. Online treatments include manual, acupuncture, movement, mind-body, herbal, and expressive art therapies.

Methods: The SIO Online Practice Recommendations employed a four-phase consensus process: (1) literature review and discussion among an international panel of SIO members, identifying key elements essential in an integrative oncology visit; (2) development, testing, and refinement of a questionnaire defining challenges and strategies; (3) refinement input from integrative oncology experts from 19 countries; and (4) SIO Executive Committee review identifying the most high-priority challenges and strategies.

Results: The SIO Online Practice Recommendations address ten challenges, providing practical suggestions for online treatment/consultation. These include overcoming unfamiliarity, addressing resistance among patients and healthcare practitioners to online consultation/treatment, exploring ethical and medical-legal aspects, solving technological issues, preparing the online treatment setting, starting the online treatment session, maintaining effective communication, promoting specific treatment effects, involving the caregiver, concluding the session, and ensuring continuity of care.

Conclusions: The SIO Online Practice Recommendations are relevant for ensuring continuity of care beyond the present pandemic. They can be implemented for patients with limited accessibility to integrative oncology treatments due to geographic constraints, financial difficulties, physical disability, or an unsupportive caregiver. These recommendations require further study in practice settings.

Keywords: Doctor-patient communication; Integrative oncology; Practice guidelines; Supportive care; Telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Integrative Oncology*
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Pandemics
  • Referral and Consultation
  • SARS-CoV-2