Cancer multidisciplinary team meetings (MDMs) are fundamental to achieve collaborative interspecialty patient treatment decision-making. The unprecedented coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has initiated a shift towards virtual healthcare delivery. This survey evaluates the key successes and barriers of virtual MDMs (vMDMs) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Electronic surveys were distributed to healthcare professionals attending vMDMs at public hospitals across metropolitan Adelaide. Demographics, specialty, frequency of attendance, software used, details of advantages and limitations, users’ satisfaction, and areas for improvement were surveyed.
Fifty-eight responses were received between June to July 2020. Respondents included medical oncologists (31%), radiation oncologists (5%), surgeons (16%), physicians (9%), pathologists (5%), radiologists (12%), nurses (12%), and junior medical staff (10%). One-third of responders attended vMDMs across multiple sites and 47% attended at least two vMDMs. Overall satisfaction of vMDMs was high at 75%. When vMDMs and face-to-face meetings were compared, 74% of respondents reported improved or unchanged ability in reaching a diagnosis, while 71% reported improved or unchanged ability by the team to make treatment decisions. Majority (81%) indicated a preference for vMDMs to continue even when meeting restrictions are lifted. A proportion (30%) of radiologists and pathologists reported an increased workload in preparation for vMDMs, while 14% had concerns about breach of confidentiality. Other key advantages identified were: ease of attendance (98%), better time management (67%), improved participation (66%), and involvement of wider expertise for complex cases (40%). Main criticisms include technical difficulties (59%), difficulty managing conflicts (38%), and lack of leadership (36%).
Virtual MDMs are feasible based on the positive feedback received from this survey. While challenging, our experience with vMDMs may help to encourage sustained use of modern technology for optimal care delivery in cancer patients. Robust performance measures are required to evaluate its success.