Telehealth uses technology to deliver healthcare to populations with limited access to care. This has become especially apparent within the past year as healthcare providers navigate providing clinical care in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, telemedicine has been demonstrated to provide care at a level that is at least equal to face-to-face office visits as well as high levels of satisfaction among both patients and providers. Although oncology-specific telemedicine has been demonstrated to improve access to care and decrease healthcare costs, patient satisfaction has not been assessed.
The use of telehealth at a single large National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated institute was observed each month from March 2020 to November 2020. After each visit, patient satisfaction surveys were administered to evaluate patient experience across 4 domains (technology, access, care provider [physician, physician’s assistant, and nurse practitioner]), and overall assessment). If a patient had a prior visit within the past 3 months, they did not receive a survey.
Analysis demonstrates improvement in multiple measures of patient satisfaction, including phone compared with video visits: technology (86% vs 76%) and access (80% vs 72%). Satisfaction differs by patient demographics across some categories. All age-groups had similar levels of satisfaction with technology (range, 77%-80%). However, millennials (born 1981-1995) had higher satisfaction with access to telehealth (87%) compared with all other age-groups: Gen X (1965-1980, 77%), Baby Boomer (1946-1964, 74%), and Silent Generation (1928-1945, 72%). Patients with disability had higher overall satisfaction with telehealth (82%) compared with patients who worked full time or were retired (71%). Patients with encounters in genitourinary, thoracic, and endocrine oncology clinics had the highest levels of overall satisfaction (75%) with respect to other clinics (69%). Patients with commercial insurance had worse overall satisfaction of telehealth compared with other insurance types (65% vs 72%). Gender did not appear to play a role in the level of satisfaction for any of the observed metrics.
During the study period, telehealth visits accounted for 21% of all interactions with a care provider. Its use increased from 9% in March 2020 to its highest level in April 2020 (47%), and by November 2020, telehealth had declined to 18%. Nonetheless, survey results indicate cancer patient satisfaction with telehealth visits is high and improved over time. Researchers conclude that more data are needed to determine which oncology patients might benefit most from telehealth visits.
Source: Natesan D, Niedzwiecki D, Oyekunle T, et al. Cancer patient satisfaction with telehealth: survey results from a large NCI-designated cancer institute. American Society of Clinical Oncology Virtual Meeting; June 4-8, 2021. Abstract 1579.