Purpose: Telehealth in medical oncology has expanded secondary to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, quantitative research on medical oncology telehealth use shows conflicting results on patient satisfaction, whereas qualitative data are sparse. Our qualitative study aimed to identify the factors influencing patient acceptability of video visits for medical oncology care before and at the onset of the expansion of telehealth because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted between November 2019 and April 2020 with 20 patients who participated in a telehealth visit with a medical oncology provider at Thomas Jefferson University.
Results: Of the 20 participants, 13 (65%) were female and 15 (75%) were White, with a mean (standard deviation) age of 60.5 years (11.8). Patients identified convenience, anxiety, COVID-19, and provider preference as positively influencing the acceptability of video visits; however, some patients noted limitations in provider connection, physical examinations, and visit length as disadvantages. Regarding receipt of serious or bad news, some preferred video visits for privacy, immediacy of results, news processing, and family comfort. Others preferred in-person encounters for provider support and the ability to receive written information and in-person referrals.
Conclusion: Patient-perceived factors influencing general acceptability, appropriateness of serious and bad news delivery, and future uses of telehealth were unique to each individual, but shared common themes. Understanding each patient's perspective of telehealth acceptability and tailoring use to their preferences is critical for continued utilization. Further research is needed to understand and address reasons for lack of telehealth uptake among certain patients.