Attitudes and Perceptions of Multidisciplinary Cancer Care Clinicians Toward Telehealth and Secure Messages

JAMA Netw Open. 2021 Nov 1;4(11):e2133877. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.33877.


Importance: Telehealth use including secure messages has rapidly expanded since the COVID-19 pandemic, including for multidisciplinary aspects of cancer care. Recent reports described rapid uptake and various benefits for patients and clinicians, suggesting that telehealth may be in standard use after the pandemic.

Objective: To examine attitudes and perceptions of multidisciplinary cancer care clinicians toward telehealth and secure messages.

Design, setting, and participants: Cross-sectional specialty-specific survey (ie, some questions appear only for relevant specialties) among multidisciplinary cancer care clinicians, collected from April 29, 2020, to June 5, 2020. Participants were all 285 clinicians in the fields of medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, survivorship, and oncology navigation from all 21 community cancer centers of Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

Main outcomes and measures: Clinician satisfaction, perceived benefits and challenges of telehealth, perceived quality of telehealth and secure messaging, preferred visit and communication types for different clinical activities, and preferences regarding postpandemic telehealth use.

Results: A total of 202 clinicians (71%) responded (104 of 128 medical oncologists, 34 of 37 radiation oncologists, 16 of 62 breast surgeons, 18 of 28 navigators, and 30 of 30 survivorship experts; 57% (116 of 202) were women; 73% [147 of 202] between ages 36-55 years). Seventy-six percent (n = 154) were satisfied with telehealth without statistically significant variations based on clinician characteristics. In-person visits were thought to promote a strong patient-clinician connection by 99% (n = 137) of respondents compared with 77% (n = 106) for video visits, 43% (n = 59) for telephone, and 14% (n = 19) for secure messages. The most commonly cited benefits of telehealth to clinicians included reduced commute (79%; n = 160), working from home (74%; n = 149), and staying on time (65%; n = 132); the most commonly cited negative factors included internet connection (84%; n = 170) or equipment problems (72%; n = 146), or physical examination needed (64%; n = 131). Most respondents (59%; n = 120) thought that video is adequate to manage the greater part of patient care in general; and most deemed various telehealth modalities suitable for any of the queried types of patient-clinician activities. For some specific activities, less than half of respondents thought that only an in-person visit is acceptable (eg, 49%; n = 66 for end-of-life discussion, 35%; n = 58 for new diagnosis). Most clinicians (82%; n = 166) preferred to maintain or increase use of telehealth after the pandemic.

Conclusions and relevance: In this survey of multidisciplinary cancer care clinicians in the COVID-19 era, telehealth was well received and often preferred by most cancer care clinicians, who deemed it appropriate to manage most aspects of cancer care. As telehealth use becomes routine in some cancer care settings, video and telephone visits and use of asynchronous secure messaging with patients in cancer care has clear potential to extend beyond the pandemic period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't