Source: ThinkStock

– A telehealth program connecting cancer specialists with patients diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is helping those patients learn more about their condition and treatment, while also boosting the ranks of candidates for clinical trials.

An analysis of the two-year-old Expert Access program, developed by the CLL Society and Boston-based virtual care provider InfinteMD, finds that a connected health program greatly improves care management by giving patients more information about their condition, enabling them to make better decisions about their care.

The service gives patients free access to a second opinion delivered via telemedicine by CLL, a non-profit organization supporting those living with CLL, the most common type of leukemia in adults. Roughly 20,000 people, primarily seniors, are diagnosed each year with CLL.

“For CLL patients, there is a proven survival advantage to having an expert on their team, and that has never been truer than now with all the new therapies,” Brian Koffman, co-founder, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President of the CLL Society, said in a recent press release. “The CLL Society’s free Expert Access program helps patients who otherwise would not have such access get their best possible care.”

Koffman presented the study at the American Society of Hematology’s annual meeting earlier this month in December. The study focused on pre- and post-visit surveys completed by 84 people who had used the telehealth service.

Of that group, 64 percent expressed more confidence in the current healthcare provider after using the virtual care platform, while 86 percent said they were more confident in understanding their test results, 82 percent had a better understanding of their care management plan and 85 percent had more confidence in that plan.

In addition, 35 percent said they planned to have more tests done, 20 percent planned to do some additional genetic testing, and 42 percent planned to do more research on CLL. And 55 percent said they’d consider taking part in a clinical trial.

Some 24 percent, meanwhile, said they planned on seeing a new doctor, while just 4 percent planned to delay treatment and 8 percent planned to pursue a different treatment.

The study points to the value of telehealth in creating a more educated patient, particularly one who might not have access to specialist care due to location or a lack of specialists. In addition, programs like this enable specialists to see more patients, for both treatment and clinical trials, thus improving clinical outcomes and expanding the pool for promising new treatments.

It also highlights the value of a second opinion in prompting patients to be more active in their care. Of those surveyed in the study, only 25 percent planned to make no changes in their care.