Racial Differences in Patient-Reported Access to Telehealth: An Important and Unmeasured Social Determinant of Health

John A. Iasiello, Arvind Rajan, Emmanuel Zervos, Alexander A. Parikh, Rebecca A. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

PURPOSEThe COVID-19 pandemic expanded opportunities for remote oncology telehealth visits. However, reliable internet connectivity, digital literacy, and patient comfort with virtual medical visits may differ among patients, especially socially disadvantaged groups. The primary aim of this study was to identify barriers that might limit access to telehealth video services.METHODSFirst, retrospective analysis was performed of composite administrative data of all patient visits to a large regional cancer center during the pandemic (March 2020 to April 2022). Second, a prospective, cross-sectional study was conducted of patients with known or suspected malignancy over a 6-month period (November 2021 to April 2022). A survey regarding video telehealth accessibility was verbally administered to patients at their clinic visit.RESULTSAdministrative data demonstrated that although Black patients comprised 43% (n = 9,021) of all patient visits (n = 20,953), the proportion of telehealth visits conducted among Black patients was significantly lower compared with White patients (29% v 71%; P <.0001). Of the prospective, cross-sectional study cohort (n = 148), 51.4% of patients (n = 76) were Black, 38.5% (n = 57) resided in a rural county, and 8.1% (n = 12) were Medicaid-insured. Black participants were more likely to self-report lack of internet access (73.7% v 90.4%; P <.01) and were less likely to report having access to or actively using a patient portal (29.0% v 47.2%; P <.001) compared with White patients. The independent association of race and internet access (P <.05) and patient portal use (P =.001) persisted after multivariable analysis.CONCLUSIONBlack patients disproportionately underparticipated in telehealth visits, suggesting underlying structural disparities in access to digital care. A greater proportion of Black participants self-reported lack of internet access and access to a patient portal compared with White patients. Ensuring equal internet access and digital literacy will be critical to reduce disparities in cancer care among racial minorities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1215-1223
Number of pages9
JournalJCO Oncology Practice
Volume19
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Oncology(nursing)
  • Oncology

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