CancerLinQ Data Shows Drop in Physician Visits for Patients With Cancer During Pandemic

Jun 04, 2021

By Katherine H. Crawford, MA, PMP, ASCO Communications

This article includes updated data not in the abstract.

A new study finds that in-person oncologist visits for newly diagnosed patients with cancer dropped 25% in the first 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study is being presented at the 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting, taking place virtually June 4-8.

With all of the disruptions that occurred in health care over the past year due to the pandemic, the authors of a newly released study examined the impact on U.S. oncology practices and, in particular, the number and demographics of patients affected. Using de-identified data from ASCO’s CancerLinQ Discovery® database, which included records for more than 2 million patients from all 50 states, the authors looked for changes in the monthly proportions of in-person and telehealth visits for new and established patients with an invasive malignancy, benign or in situ neoplasm, or benign hematology diagnosis during the period of January 1, 2018, through September 30, 2020.

Over 1.2 million patients in the data set were studied, 54% of whom had an invasive malignancy. During the 9-month period between December 2019 and September 2020, monthly in-person visits for new patients dropped from 11.5% to 8.6%, which was a relative drop of 25%. Yet telehealth visits for this cohort only increased by 1.2%. This reduction is consistent with other reports of reductions in cancer screening due to the pandemic, which can lead to a delay in cancer diagnoses.1

Hispanic patients had a larger reduction in in-person visits and an increased use of telehealth visits compared to non-Hispanic patients, a finding that warrants further study.

The decline in in-person visits for established patients was not quite as steep, with a drop of 94.5% to 87.2% for the 6-month period between December 2019 and June 2020, and these visits rebounded to a rate of 89.6% by September 2020. Established patients also had much higher rates of telehealth use: 13.1% of visits at peak in June 2020 and then 10.3% in September.

Collecting data specifically about heath care use among patients with cancer during this pandemic is so important, and examining CancerLinQ data is one of the ways that we can gain more information,” said author Danielle Potter, PhD, who is a principal investigator and leads real-world evidence at CancerLinQ.

This abstract (6547) is featured in a poster session in the Health Services Research and Quality Improvement Track.

No external funding was received for this study.

CancerLinQ® is a real-world oncology data platform developed by ASCO that collects and aggregates longitudinal electronic health record (EHR) data from oncology practices throughout the United States. The goal is to rapidly improve patient care and accelerate discovery by securely compiling, harmonizing, analyzing, and de-identifying vast amounts of information on patient characteristics (e.g., molecular profiles, comorbidities), treatments, and long-term side effects. By using data from over 4 million patients in near real time, CancerLinQ can identify trends and associations between myriad variables, thereby enabling physicians to generate new hypotheses and apply those conclusions to improve care in real-world settings.

View the full abstract.


  1. Chen RC, Haynes K, Du S, et al. Association of Cancer Screening Deficit in the United States With the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA Oncol. 2021 Apr 29:e210884.

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