Background: Video-consultation (VC) is a specialized type of telemedicine that uses technology to provide real-time visual and audio patient assessment at a distance. In the present review, we set out to evaluate whether VC is feasible for the assessment, monitoring, and management of oncology patients. Methods: A search strategy designed to capture studies that addressed the use of telemedicine to deliver cancer care identified relevant articles in the medline (1966 to September 2008) and PubMed (to 2008) databases. Articles were included if they described studies incorporating: (1) video-conferencing between patient and provider for assessment or monitoring, (2) physicians or nurses as the care providers, (3) cancer patients, (4) consultation in real-time, and (5) reporting of 1 or more outcomes. Results: Of the more than three hundred articles retrieved, nineteen articles describing 15 unique patient populations involving 709 patients were inclusded in the analysis. No randomized trials were located. Eight studies included a control group; seven involved a case series. The most commonly reported outcomes were patient satisfaction (ten studies), cost to perform consultation (six studies), patient preference for VC compared with in-person consultation (five studies), provider satisfaction (four studies), and provider convenience (four studies). Of these outcomes, satisfaction on the part of patients and physicians has been positive overall, total costs were comparable to or less than those for in-person consultations, and patients valued having vc as an option for consultation. Outcomes evaluating the effect on clinical care were infrequently reported. Conclusions: While there is evidence to suggest that vc is both feasible and effective for use in the clinical care of oncology patients, studies are generally small and methodologically weak, with limited power of inference.
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