Nearly 50,000 veterans are diagnosed with cancer each year. The National Oncology program offers oncology care to these veterans, but most of them live in rural areas and remain underserved. Michael Kelley, M.D., director of the National Oncology Program for the Department of Veterans Affairs, has developed a strategy to offer oncology care to veterans in far-flung areas. He has introduced teleoncology through partnerships between rural health centers and academic medical centers.
Hiring an oncologist for a rural hospital can be a challenge. Teleoncology helps cancer specialists treat patients in these underserved areas without being physically present. Initially, many oncologists were skeptical of this approach as oncology is a complex specialty. As the covid-19 pandemic progressed, however, more specialists have come to accept telemedicine and the idea didn’t seem far-fetched anymore. Teleoncology would also help recruit veterans in remote areas for clinical trials so that we can have more applicable results for veteran patients.
Individuals willing to learn more about cancer treatment options at the Rogel Cancer Center should visit www.rogelcancercenter.org, or call the CancerAnswerLine to talk to a nurse, 800-865-1125.