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Conference Coverage

Technological Barriers to Telehealth Use for Patients With Cancer

April 08, 2021

There are significant disparities in technological knowledge and access among cancer patients due to demographic characteristics, according to a recent study presented at the virtual NCCN 2021 Annual Conference.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the rapid expansion of telehealth use. Telehealth has the potential to improve access for underserved populations who live far distances from well-equipped medical centers,” wrote Jeremie Lever, PHD, O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, Birmingham, AL, and colleagues.

“This healthcare modality will likely be particularly important for patients with cancer,” they added.

This study sought to examine patient access and knowledge of technologies associated with telehealth utilization.

Patients at an NCCN-designated comprehensive cancer center participated in this single-center cross-sectional survey over a 2-month period. The study assessed demographics, education, internet, and cell phone access. A 10-question quiz was used to measure patients’ knowledge on using computers and the internet. IRS data for zip codes was used to determine the patients’ income. An ordered logistic regression or mixed model ordered regression was used to examine the data.

Of the 344 survey responses, 70% were women, 67.3% were Caucasian, 25.4% were Black, and the mean age of participants was 57.5 years. Reports showed that 35% of participants did not attend college, and that 5.0% had not finished high school. The median estimated income for participants was $45,820. Internet access was inadequate for telehealth use for 30% of patients, and 6.5% of patients had no internet access. The average score of the technology knowledge quiz was 57.4%.

Dr Lever and colleagues determined through a multivariable analysis that predictors of technological knowledge were age, race, education level, and cell phone type, while home internet access (P = .416), type of home internet access, and median income (P = .109) were not predictors.

“In our sample, nearly one-third of cancer patients did not have adequate internet access for telehealth,” wrote Dr Lever and colleagues.

“There were significant disparities in technological knowledge among cancer patients which were associated with demographic characteristics,” they concluded.—Marta Rybczynski

Lever JMP, Irfan A, Fouad M, et al. Telehealth is Here—Are Patients Ready for It? An Analysis of Technological Knowledge in Cancer Patients. Presented at: the virtual 2021 NCCN Annual Conference; March 18-20, 2021. Abstract HSR21-059.

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