Integration of Telemedicine Consultation Into a Tertiary Radiation Oncology Department: Predictors of Use, Treatment Yield, and Effects on Patient Population

JCO Clin Cancer Inform. 2024 Apr:8:e2300239. doi: 10.1200/CCI.23.00239.


Purpose: The COVID-19 pandemic led to rapid expansion of telemedicine. The implications of telemedicine have not been rigorously studied in radiation oncology, a procedural specialty. This study aimed to evaluate the characteristics of in-person patients (IPPs) and virtual patients (VPs) who presented to a large cancer center before and during the pandemic and to understand variables affecting likelihood of receiving radiotherapy (yield) at our institution.

Methods: A total of 17,915 patients presenting for new consultation between 2019 and 2021 were included, stratified by prepandemic and pandemic periods starting March 24, 2020. Telemedicine visits included video and telephone calls. Area deprivation indices (ADIs) were also compared.

Results: The overall population was 56% male and 93% White with mean age of 63 years. During the pandemic, VPs accounted for 21% of visits, were on average younger than their in-person (IP) counterparts (63.3 years IP v 62.4 VP), and lived further away from clinic (215 miles IP v 402 VP). Among treated VPs, living closer to clinic was associated with higher yield (odds ratio [OR], 0.95; P < .001). This was also seen among IPPs who received treatment (OR, 0.96; P < .001); however, the average distance from clinic was significantly lower for IPPs than VPs (205 miles IP v 349 VP). Specialized radiotherapy (proton and brachytherapy) was used more in VPs. IPPs had higher ADI than VPs. Among VPs, those treated had higher ADI (P < .001).

Conclusion: Patient characteristics and yield were significantly different between IPPs and VPs. Telemedicine increased reach to patients further away from clinic, including from rural or health care-deprived areas, allowing access to specialized radiation oncology care. Telemedicine has the potential to increase the reach of other technical and procedural specialties.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ifosfamide
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Radiation Oncology*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Telemedicine*


  • Ifosfamide