Background: Telecommunication models promise to improve access to cancer genetic counseling. Little is known about their impact among the geographically underserved. This work examined knowledge and emotional outcomes and attitudes/beliefs regarding cancer telegenetic services (via live-interactive videoconferencing) in Maine.
Materials and methods: Cancer telegenetic patients seen at two remote sites and control (in-person) patients responded to pre-/postsurveys assessing care impact on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) knowledge and emotional health, ease of access to services, and telegenetics satisfaction/acceptability.
Results: 158/174 (90%) participants returned pre- and immediate postcounseling surveys (90 remote and 68 in-person). Fewer returned 1-month postsurveys. Remote patients were older with lower education levels, more likely to live in rural counties and to have cancer histories. The two groups were matched relative to gender, race, and health insurance status. HBOC knowledge improved equally in both groups pre- versus immediately postcounseling and was maintained at 1 month in both groups. Decreased anxiety was evident postcounseling with no significant difference between groups. Depression improved significantly in remote patients immediately postcounseling; 1-month depression measures were lower in both groups. The availability of telegenetics eased transportation needs/work absences, and patients reported satisfaction with telecommunication quality. Despite overall acceptance of telegenetics, 32% of remote patients noted preference for in-person care.
Conclusions: There were few differences in HBOC knowledge and emotional outcomes comparing traditional in-person cancer genetic services with telegenetics, and satisfaction with/acceptance of this model was high. These data relate to scalability of cancer telegenetics in rural regions regionally and nationally.
Keywords: cancer genetic counseling; e-Health; m-Health; telehealth; telemedicine.