Background The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented lockdown of Ireland and significant healthcare challenges including outpatient department clinics. As a result, these cancer clinics were conducted virtually by telephone. The aim of this study is to measure cancer patients’ satisfaction with telephone consultations.
Methods Cancer patients on active treatment or surveillance in an Irish university hospital were invited to complete a questionnaire issued via “Survey Monkey”. It comprised ten questions and assessed whether patients concerns were adequately addressed and preference to continue with virtual consultations. Patients recorded what was absent from the current environment when compared with previous clinics.
Results This survey was issued to 180 cancer patients including 65 (36%) men and 115 females (64%) with a median age of 65 (range 20 – 92) years. Fifty-four patients (30%) completed this anonymised questionnaire. Over 96% (n=52) of cancer patients agreed/strongly agreed their concerns were addressed satisfactorily and similarly 93% (n=50) felt reassured after this consultation. One-third of patients (n=18) would prefer for all out-patient consultations to revert to those in the pre COVID-19 era and 11% agreed all future consultations should continue virtually. The remaining, 30 patients (56%) agreed with the later though only in certain circumstances. Twenty-eight patients missed (56%) missed the face-to-face interaction and reassurance provided by a physical examination.
Conclusion This is the first Irish oncology study which examined cancer patients perspective of Health Service Executive directed virtual outpatient clinics. Face-to-face consultations are crucial for optimal cancer patient care and cannot be eliminated completely.