Virtual tumor board sticking points and how to tackle them

Tumor boards provide a comprehensive approach to cancer care by streamlining the clinical decision-making processes. A recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) survey revealed that 96% of respondents1 noted that tumor board meetings were beneficial for patients and provided educational value to oncologists. In-person processes are time-consuming hence the need for virtual meetings. 

A clinical study2 by researchers from Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey discovered that physician attendance at tumor board meetings increased by 46% when an in-person multidisciplinary one changed to virtual. 

Also, these scientists found that patient case presentations were faster, with a 20% increase compared to in-person tumor boards. Despite these benefits, there are still some sticking points or challenges when it comes to making sure a virtual meeting is efficient and productive for everyone involved. 

This article discusses common virtual tumor boards challenges, and their solutions. 

Challenges of virtual tumor board meetings 

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the transition of tumor board meetings from in-person to virtual. Despite the efficiency and ease of conducting them virtually, there are multiple challenges3, particularly when it comes to using technology. Here are a few. 

What is the most significant challenge in the virtual tumor meetings physicians have attended according to doctors
What is the most significant challenge in the virtual tumor meetings physicians have attended according to doctors

Synchronous schedules 

Most virtual tumor board meetings only accept oncologists based in a specific region and timezone. The organizers of these meetings want members who can participate at a particular time. However, other factors can deter oncologists from partaking in scheduled tumor board meetings. For instance, an oncologist who runs a busy clinic may either be too exhausted or unavailable for an appointment. This underscores the need for flexibility and using a platform that allows members to participate at any time. 

Technical issues 

Virtual tumor board members may experience technical issues that occasionally interfere with their access to the virtual platform and active participation. For example, unstable internet connectivity and incompatible laptop or mobile devices may hinder easy access to the platform. A 2022 Sermo survey of physician specialists4 in our community revealed that audiovisual challenges were the most common technical issues in virtual tumor board meetings. 

Also, if the virtual tumor board platform is not user-friendly, some members may require extra time to learn how to use the tool. These pain points can create frustration for some participants who may feel they are spending too much time on an administrative task that keeps them from practicing medicine and helping patients. 

Unorganized meetings and case discussions 

Some platforms for hosting virtual tumor board meetings do not have the features required to sort and extract topics or cases presented in tumor board meetings. Consequently, tumor board members may experience challenges searching for cases, discussions or topics that interest them. 

In contrast, if the virtual platform has the ability to organize past tumor board meeting posts or discussions, new or current board members can quickly select cases they have sufficient knowledge and expertise to contribute towards. In particular, this improves board medical professional participation. 

How to overcome challenges 

The type of platform you host your virtual tumor board meetings on is essential to overcoming most of the highlighted challenges. Here are specific qualities of an ideal platform for virtual tumor board meetings.  

Asynchronous meetings 

A platform that supports asynchronous meetings allow oncologists and other specialists to participate in case discussions and engage in these meetings on their own time. This makes tumor board meetings flexible to accommodate members who may not be available for meetings that conflict with other aspects of clinical practice. The Sermo virtual tumor board is one such solution that fosters input from qualified oncologists regardless of their location.  

Global collaboration 

Permitting the participation of licensed oncologists and physician specialists anywhere in the world will promote the quality exchange of ideas and continuous learning process in virtual tumor board meetings. Therefore, consider joining or hosting your meeting on a platform that allows the global contribution of licensed specialists.  

Customized settings 

Generally, most tumor board platforms are not user-friendly. “The technology for medical professionals has not been physician-user-friendly, it is just IT-user-friendly,” a specialist in the Sermo community reported in our survey. 

Hence, the virtual tumor board platform should have the capacity that allows its members to sort past meetings based on specific preferences such as case topics, specialties, dates, etc. This will enable participants to find their preferences or specific details easily and quickly. 

Consistent and frequent clinical case discussions 

Information updates are also key to success. However, in our recent Sermo specialist survey, only 58% of respondents noted that their virtual tumor boards were consistently updated to help members stay active and current with the latest cancer treatment approaches other oncologists share and reference in case discussions.  

For consistent information updates on a virtual board, the organizer of the meeting may choose to delegate this task or leverage a community-based approach where doctors within one’s network can share the relevant research they are aware of. 

virtual tumor board on Sermo

Do you need tips to improve your meetings? 

A virtual tumor board meeting is an efficient way for multidisciplinary experts in cancer care to share their knowledge and proffer comprehensive treatment plans for cancer cases. The features of the platform play a critical role in overcoming some challenges of conducting meetings remotely. 

Get tips and recommendations from other oncologists on how to efficiently conduct virtual tumor board meetings in your center by learning from the network of oncologists in a physician community like Sermo. Sermo provides access to a virtual tumor board and an online community of oncologists and other specialists. Join Sermo for free today and view one of the tumor boards. 


  1. SAGE Journals
  2. JCO Oncology Practice
  3. JCO Oncology Practice
  4. Sermo