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A new initiative is intended to boost research into cancer-related care delivered by telehealth to patients and their families.

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed telehealth into the public spotlight for patients as a helpful mode for patients to receive care without exposure to the virus.  Telehealth allows practitioners to differentiate between patients who can be seen via video connection and patients whose condition requires they be seen in person. For patients, telehealth can be the means to get quick and professional medical advice without taking time off work or otherwise traveling to wait in a doctor’s office.

In August, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced an award of $23 million to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to fund four research institutions which will evaluate the role of telehealth in the care and treatment of patients with cancer. The money will fund the Telehealth Research Centers of Excellence (TRACE)

The award is part of the White House “Cancer Moonshot” that aims to reduce the death rate by cancer by 50 percent over the next 25 years.  The program also has goals around improving quality of life for those with cancer and assisting people who have survived cancer.

The NCI will fund four institutions who will be charged with developing best practices around telehealth for oncology practices, treatment programs, Veterans healthcare systems, and telehealth-enabled risk behavior treatments.  The TRACE centers will be established at New York University Grossman School of Medicine, Northwestern University at Chicago, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Said Dr. Katrina Goddard, a Director with the NCI, “One of the Cancer Moonshot goals is to make the cancer experience less burdensome for patients and their families and caregivers. We are awarding these centers of excellence to better understand how telehealth can contribute to improved health outcomes across the cancer care continuum.”

The TRACE centers will focus on how telehealth can best be used to meet and surpass the initiatives of this program. In developing best practices for telehealth, the initiative also has the opportunity to bring awareness to how telehealth may not suit some treatment paradigms in order to ensure that each patient, and their family, has their best shot at successful treatment and a healthy future.

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