Cancer care coordination in rural Hawaii: a focus group study

BMC Health Serv Res. 2024 Apr 24;24(1):518. doi: 10.1186/s12913-024-10916-1.


Background: Rural populations consistently experience a disproportionate burden of cancer, including higher incidence and mortality rates, compared to the urban populations. Factors that are thought to contribute to these disparities include limited or lack of access to care and challenges with care coordination (CC). In Hawaii, many patients residing in rural areas experience unique challenges with CC as they require inter-island travel for their cancer treatment. In this focus group study, we explored the specific challenges and positive experiences that impact the CC in rural Hawaii cancer patients.

Methods: We conducted two semi-structured focus group interviews with cancer patients receiving active treatment for any type of cancer (n = 8). The participants were recruited from the rural areas of Hawaii, specifically the Hawaii county and Kauai. Rural was defined using the Rural-Urban Commuting Area Codes (RUCA; rural ≥ 4). The focus group discussions were facilitated using open-ended questions to explore patients' experiences with CC.

Results: Content analysis revealed that 47% of the discussions were related to CC-related challenges, including access to care (27.3%), insurance (9.1%), inter-island travel (6.1%), and medical literacy (4.5%). Other major themes from the discussions focused on facilitators of CC (30.3%), including the use of electronic patient portal (12.1%), team-based approach (9.1%), family caregiver support (4.5%), and local clinic staff (4.5%).

Conclusion: Our findings indicate that there are notable challenges in rural patients' experiences regarding their cancer care coordination. Specific factors such as the lack of oncologist and oncology services, fragmented system, and the lack of local general medical providers contribute to problems with access to care. However, there are also positive factors found through the help of facilitators of CC, notability the use of electronic patient portal, team-based approach, family caregiver support, and local clinic staff. These findings highlight potential targets of interventions to improve cancer care delivery for rural patients.

Trial registration: Not required.

Keywords: Cancer; Care coordination; Focus group; Qualitative study; Rural Hawaii.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Continuity of Patient Care / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Focus Groups*
  • Hawaii
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Qualitative Research
  • Rural Population* / statistics & numerical data