Cancer patients can meet with their physician via teleconference and might have access to South Shore chemotherapy once Barton Health fully implements its expanding cancer services.
The hospital announced its partnership with Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center to grow oncology services last week. Barton’s Telehealth for Tahoe Program will allow patients of the Truckee-based center to meet with their physicians without leaving the South Shore.
“Follow-up appointments post chemotherapy or radiation include evaluation of blood work (CBC) and treatment based on the results. Medications and blood products may be administered at the Barton Infusion Center after their appointment if needed,” Director of the Barton Health Telemedicine Program Director Ann Truscott wrote in an email. “Teleconferencing is very effective because it prevents the patient from having to drive one-hour to Truckee, but it allows the oncologist in Truckee to visually see and talk with their patient.”
Barton began offering the telemedicine services in 2009. A marriage between technology and medicine, telemedicine facilitates online communication between South Shore patients and their physicians.
While patients will still have to travel to Truckee for chemotherapy, radiation and initial consultations, Barton would host the follow-up appointments and can administer cancer tests related to blood work, CT scans or MRIs, according to Truscott.
The local services could save more than two dozen South Shore patients a trip to U.C. Davis or Truckee. The South Lake Tahoe Cancer League organizes 30 to 50 drives per month for patients who need transportation to regional treatment centers, according to league treasurer Angie Burns.
The cancer league, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting permanent residents get access to cancer services, will still provide transportation to Barton if needed.
“It would really benefit the patients. In the winter, it’s a terrible drive sometimes,” Burns said.
According to Truscott, the Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center treats eight to 12 active cancer patients who live in the South Shore at any given time.
In addition to the telemedicine appointments, the Truckee center launched individual and group cancer support therapy last month, according to Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center Executive Director Tim Garcia Jay.
“The telemedicine program offers patients the ability to spend more time at home and be monitored in between their regular treatment at GUMTFCC,” Jay said.