News: Inequities in telemedicine for cancer care, according to study

CDI Strategies - Volume 16, Issue 22

The use of telemedicine for cancer care has grown increasingly common but not at an equitable rate, according to a recent study conducted by Jenny S. Guadamuz, PhD, of Flatiron Health in New York City, and colleagues. Their research found that Black, uninsured, and non-urban patients were all less likely to use these services.

The study found that 13.2% of Black patients used telemedicine compared to 15.6% of white patients, 11.8% of uninsured patients used it compared to 16.4% of well-insured patients, and 9.7% of rural patients and 13.0% of suburban patients used it compared to 17.7% of urban patients. In a press brief preceding the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, Guadamuz reported that similar patterns were seen when the data was adjusted for clinical characteristics, whether patients were starting treatment for non-small cell lung, breast, colorectal, or pancreatic cancers.

Considering current efforts to make telemedicine a permanent covered service and increase its reimbursement rates, Guadamuz hypothesized that this could potentially further the divide in cancer care inequities. “Future research should examine additional characteristics that may be associated with telemedicine inequities, such as language preferences and access to high-speed internet," Guadamuz said during the briefing. "We shouldn't assume patients have the infrastructure necessary to use these services."

Most notably, 23.6% of patients with the highest socioeconomic status used telemedicine, whereas only 10.6% of patients with the lowest socioeconomic status did the same. While telemedicine use did decrease at the end of 2021, Guadamuz said that most of the discrepancies noted earlier remained persistent. Moving forward, cancer centers seeking to reduce inequities should model identifying centers that do provide equitable telemedicine care, she recommended.

Editor’s Note: Read Medpage Today’s article on this topic here. Read the full ASCO news release here.

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