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21-04-2021 | Telehealth | News

Telemedicine not favored by cancer patients or physicians

Laura Cowen

medwireNews: The majority of patients with cancer and their physicians report a preference for in-person visits rather than telemedicine consultations, suggest results of a survey carried out at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 16-question survey, which looked at comfort and interest in telemedicine appointments, was e-mailed to patients and physicians at six cancer clinics in a US comprehensive cancer care center between January 1 and June 1, 2020, report Chase Wehrle and colleagues from Augusta University in Georgia, USA, in JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics.

They found that 68.2% of the 374 patient respondents currently preferred in-person visits to telemedicine and 80.4% said that they would prefer in-person visits following the resolution of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The majority (63.1%) of patients said they were comfortable with physical examinations, but 32.1% said they would prefer to minimize contact as much as possible and 4.5% were currently uncomfortable with receiving a physical examination. In addition, 74.8% of patients said their opinion toward physical contact had not changed since the start of the pandemic whereas 15.2% said they were now less comfortable with physical contact.

Of the patients who said they preferred virtual to in-person visits, just over half (52.2%) cited convenience as the reason for their preference, with the minority (47.8%, equivalent to just 14.4% of the entire cohort) saying that their preference was due to concern for communication of infectious diseases.

Wehrle and co-authors say that this finding “represents an area of opportunity for increased patient education.”

They add: “Providers using telemedicine should emphasize to their patients the safety implications that are leading them to use this treatment modality and realistic expectations of what can and cannot be assessed virtually. This increased education might help increase patient receptiveness and comfort toward receiving treatment through telemedicine.”

The majority (85.7%) of the 14 physicians who responded to the survey had conducted a telemedicine visit previously, and most (64.2%) said they prefer in-person visits and believe that virtual visits maybe or probably do not provide the same level of care as in-person visits.

Wehrle and team conclude: “Although previous studies and guidelines have emphasized the importance of telehealth in patients with cancer during the pandemic, it appears that both patients and providers do not actually prefer this modality of care.”

They continue: “Providing care virtually may seem to be the clear path forward, but individuals both giving and receiving care do not agree, particularly following the resolution of COVID-19.”

The authors also note that their findings contrast with those “of some subsequent studies that have found an increased receptiveness to telemedicine,” and they say: “These differences may exemplify the impact of telehealth policy changes and the continuously worsening pandemic on patient and physician attitudes.”

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Ltd. © 2021 Springer Healthcare Ltd, part of the Springer Nature Group

21 April 2021: The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all healthcare professionals across the globe. Medicine Matters’ focus, in this difficult time, is the dissemination of the latest data to support you in your research and clinical practice, based on the scientific literature. We will update the information we provide on the site, as the data are published. However, please refer to your own professional and governmental guidelines for the latest guidance in your own country.

JCO Clin Cancer Inform 2021; 5: 394–400

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