The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), emerged in Wuhan in late 2019 and became a worldwide pandemic by March 2020 (1).
Since the beginning of the virus extent, cancer patients were widely accepted as a more at-risk population due to their underlying disease and greater immunosuppression (2). Consequently, the symptoms caused by COVID-19 are more severe, and mortality is also higher when compared to the community, reaching a 30% rate according to different series (3–5).
To reduce the risk of infection, oncologists were required to readapt cancer care models and evaluate the risks and benefits of outpatient visits in health care centres. Therefore, medical associations such as the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recommended the use of telemedicine when feasible (6, 7).
For this reason, during the first quarter of 2020, telehealth was implemented in 76.2% of European centres and its use increased by 150% compared with 2019 (8, 9)
Telemedicine is defined by the World Health Organization as the delivery of health care services using information and communication technologies, for the exchange of valid information for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and the continuing education of health care providers. (10).
The interest in increasing the use of telemedicine for medical assistance already existed before the actual global crisis. Previously published reports reinforced telehealth as a valid method of medical consultation since it offers a high level of satisfaction to consumers and reduces the budget for health systems, without affecting quality services (11).
In the oncology field, telehealth was primarily explored in Australia and the USA to guarantee health care services to rural and remote populations (12). Afterwards, its application has been limited, and most studies address surveillance, pain management, genetic counselling, and physiological support (13).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of telemedicine for cancer care was urgently instigated without any previous robust evidence or supporting guidelines. This rapid implementation revealed numerous critical issues that must be addressed in the post-COVID era. In this sense, emerging works focus on creating strategies to identify those patients who will benefit most from telemedicine and to study treatment outcomes and patient safety under virtual care (14).
Three specific tele-oncology guidelines have been recently published in order to guide clinicians and oncology care systems. The use of telemedicine is recommended for routine follow-up/survivorship visits, to inform about laboratory and scan results, to evaluate oral drug compliance, and to manage long-term treatments (6, 13, 15).
The evidence currently available highlights the importance of considering individual conditions and patient/professional preferences in order to ensure an appropriate use of telehealth. Many recently published studies address the oncology provider’s opinion with the use of telemedicine due to the COVID − 19 pandemic, but there is little literature regarding the patient’s opinion (16–24).
During the first semester of 2020, some in-person appointments of patients attending the medical oncology service of Hospital Parc Taulí in Sabadell were switched to telemedicine according to physicians' criteria, patient preferences, and guideline recommendations.
Parallelly, we designed the ONCOLOMED study with the main objective of evaluating the preferences and satisfaction of patients with the use of telemedicine during this period.