What to Know About Telehealth for Melanoma

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If you're unable to visit your healthcare provider in person, telehealth—the delivery of healthcare services remotely through various communication technologies—is a great option to explore.

There are many times telehealth visits are appropriate, including visits for melanoma.  

Patient on a video call with a doctor through a tablet computer

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Telehealth and COVID-19

With the spread of COVID-19telehealth has become an attractive alternative to in-person healthcare appointments. While healthcare offices and clinics are taking measures to keep staff and patients safe, refraining from going to public places—unless necessary—is a good practice during a pandemic.

When to Use Telehealth for Melanoma

Telehealth visits for melanoma can be a convenient option for a visit with your cancer team, including the oncologist, nurse practitioner, or physician's assistant. These types of visits may be for:

  • Discussion of treatment options
  • Treatment education
  • Symptom management
  • Follow-ups between treatments
  • Follow-ups after a treatment has ended
  • Seeing certain specialists, such as genetic counselors or dieticians
  • Survivorship visits (after-cancer treatment)

When You May Need to Be Seen in Person

Telehealth is not the best option for every visit, though. Because a full physical exam is not possible during a telehealth visit, there are times in-person visits may be required, including in the following ways.

When needing any type of treatment, such as:

  • Surgery
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy

When needing any type of testing, including:

  • Blood tests
  • Imaging, such as X-rays or CT (computed tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and PET (positron-emission tomography) scans
  • Biopsy

If experiencing new or worsening symptoms or if any symptom is severe, to include:

  • New skin lesions, moles, or lumps
  • Changes in skin lesions, moles, or lumps
  • Nonhealing sores
  • Chest pains
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Headaches
  • Mental status changes
  • Bone pain

Benefits and Challenges

There are many benefits to telehealth visits, including:

  • Decreased travel: Some patients may live far away from their cancer center. Telehealth visits can allow for continued care from the oncology team without the inconvenience and cost of transportation.
  • Accessibility: Sometimes people have difficulty physically getting into and out of a car or walking long distances into the provider’s office. Telehealth visits offer an option for care that can be accessed without leaving the home. 
  • Time savings: Being able to take an appointment in the comfort of your home frees up time commuting to and from appointments and waiting for the visit to start.  
  • Decreased infection risk: Visits from home reduce the risk of developing an infection from exposure to another patient who may have an illness. This may be very important for someone with decreased immune system function due to cancer treatments.
  • Cost: Some insurance companies offer reduced co-pays for telehealth visits. Transportation costs are also saved, and people can save money by not having to take off from work to attend a visit. 

Although there are many benefits, there can be some challenges to telehealth as well, including: 

  • Access issues: Having a cell phone, tablet, or computer with a camera and Internet access is required for a telehealth appointment using audio and video. Not all people have the equipment necessary for a successful visit. Knowing how to use the required technology may be difficult for some people as well.
  • Technical issues: There may be times when connections are dropped or a patient or provider has problems using technology due to an outage of service or some other technical issue. These can prevent or limit the ability to perform an adequate visit. 
  • Limited physical examination: Sometimes an oncology provider will need to listen to or physically examine your body in areas that cannot easily be observed during a telehealth visit. This may lead to the potential of missing an important finding. 

How to Prepare for a Telehealth Visit for Melanoma

Ask your oncologist or other practitioner if a telehealth visit is an option for you. Once a telehealth visit is scheduled, there are a few things you can do to prepare. 

Things to do before the visit include:

  • Making sure the device used for the visit, such as a phone, tablet, or computer, is powered on and is fully charged or plugged in to a power source
  • Ensuring the connection to the Internet or wireless phone service is working
  • Having a phone number available for the provider to call you back on in case you are disconnected
  • Testing your device to make sure it’s working well
  • Finding a quiet, well-lit place to sit for the visit
  • Writing down a list of questions or concerns to discuss with the provider
  • Arranging for a family member or friend to sit with you, if desired, and be able to listen in and ask questions you may not have thought of

Will Insurance Cover Telehealth for Melanoma?

Telehealth services are not free. It helps to be aware of the following:

  • Insurance coverage of telehealth visits varies based on state and federal guidelines, and the insurance company's policy.
  • It is best to check with your insurance provider prior to setting up a telehealth visit to ensure coverage. 
  • If uninsured, check with the provider’s office for payment information and to see if telehealth is an option for a visit.
  • Research private telehealth companies that offer appointments for a flat rate with or without insurance.

What Happens During a Visit

Prior to your telehealth visit, you likely will receive instructions from your provider’s office, which will include a link to the visit platform and any instructions to know before you start. Information on security and privacy practices should also be provided. 

To start a telehealth visit, use the link provided by your practitioner’s office. 

The visit may be very similar to an in-patient visit, including in the following ways:

  • The provider may ask for vital signs if you’re able to provide them, such as recent weight, blood pressure, or heart rate.
  • The reason for your visit will be discussed (symptom management, follow-up, etc.).
  • If the provider needs to see a particular part of your body, this will be requested.
  • Discuss any questions that you have.
  • Confirm any new prescriptions or recommendations, and schedule your next visit. 

Telehealth Services Should Not Replace In-Person Care

Telehealth visits may be a great option for some of your melanoma care but will not be able to replace all of your care. Please contact your cancer care team with any concerns or to find out what precautions are being taken to keep you safe.

A Word From Verywell

Telehealth visits may be a convenient option for someone with melanoma. Educational visits, symptom management, survivorship visits, or any visit that doesn’t require a detailed physical exam may be a good option for telehealth.

If you have a medical emergency or worsening symptoms, however, it is best to be seen in person. Check with your melanoma team to see if a telehealth visit is appropriate for you. 

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Community Oncology Alliance. Survivorship visits: COA telehealth in cancer care position statement. Updated September 24, 2020.

  2. American Cancer Society. Treating melanoma skin cancer.

  3. American Cancer Society. Tests for melanoma skin cancer. Updated August 14, 2019.

  4. American Cancer Society. Signs and symptoms of melanoma skin cancer.

  5. National Institute on Aging. Telehealth: what is it, how to prepare, is it covered?