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Rodler, Severin; Apfelbeck, Maria; Schulz, Gerald Bastian; Ivanova, Troya; Buchner, Alexander; Staehler, Michael; Heinemann, Volker; Stief, Christian and Casuscelli, Jozefina (2020): Telehealth in Uro-oncology Beyond the Pandemic: Toll or Lifesaver? In: European Urology Focus, Vol. 6, No. 5: pp. 1097-1103

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Background: Telehealth services are rapidly embraced in uro-oncology due to the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Objective: To determine patients perspective on adoption of telehealth as a response to the pandemic and its sustainability in the future. Design, setting, and participants: Following a COVID-19 outbreak, 101 patients with advanced genitourinary cancers are currently managed virtually for therapy administration at our tertiary care unit. They were surveyed about the current situation, and current and long-term employment of telehealth. Intervention: Rapid implementation of virtual patient management. Outcome measurements and statistical analysis: Patients perception of anxiety of COVID-19 and cancer, perspective on telehealth measures as a reaction to the current COVID-19 pandemic, and long-term acceptance were used as outcomes. Wilcoxon matched-pair signed rank test, chi-square test, and Mann-Whitney U test were performed. Results and limitations: Of 101 patients, 92 answered the questionnaire, with 71 (77.2%) responding virtually by e-mail or phone call. Anxiety of cancer (6/10, interquartile range [IQR] 38) superseded that of COVID-19 (four/10, IQR 25.25, p < 0.001), and patients oppose temporary treatment interruption. Of the patients, 66.0% perceive their susceptibility to COVID-19 as equal to or lower than the general population and 52.2% believe that COVID-19 will not affect their therapy. In future, patients (62.6%) prefer to maintain in-person appointments as opposed to complete remote care, but accept remote care during the pandemic (eight/10, IQR 59). Beyond the crisis, maintaining telehealth has low preference rates (four/10, IQR 27), with high acceptance for external laboratory controls (60.9%) and online visit management (48.9%), but lower acceptance for remote treatment planning including staging discussions (44.6%) and for referral to secondary care oncologists (17.4%). Conclusions: Despite the pandemic, cancer remains the key concern and patients are not willing to compromise on their treatment. Rapid implementation of telehealth is tolerated well during the need of social distancing, with a clear red line concerning changes in existing patient-physician relationships. Balancing future implementation of telehealth while considering patients demand for personal relationships will ensure human dignity in uro-oncology. Patient summary: We queried patients with genitourinary cancers treated in an almost virtual setting following a local coronavirus outbreak. Acceptance of telehealth during the current situation is high;however, long-term implementation of the adapted services is less favored. We deduce that patient-physician relationship is crucial for cancer patients and needs to be balanced against measures for social distancing to forge the future management. (C) 2020 European Association of Urology. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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