PURPOSE: eHealth literacy, or the ability to seek, find, understand, and appraise health information from electronic sources, has become increasingly relevant in the era of COVID-19, when so many aspects of patient care became dependent on technology. We aimed to understand eHealth literacy among a diverse sample of patients with cancer and discuss ways for health systems and cancer centers to ensure that all patients have access to high-quality care.
METHODS: A cross-sectional survey of patients with cancer and caregivers was conducted at an NCI-designated cancer center to assess access to the Internet, smartphone ownership, use of mobile apps, willingness to engage remotely with the health care team, and use of the patient portal. Descriptive statistics and bivariate analyses were used to assess frequencies and significant differences between variables.
RESULTS: Of 363 participants, 55% (n = 201) were female, 71% (n = 241) identified as non-Hispanic White, and 29% (n = 85) reported that their highest level of education was a high school diploma. Most (90%, n = 323) reported having access to the Internet and most (82%, n = 283) reported owning a smartphone. Younger patients or those with a college degree were significantly more likely to own a smartphone, access health information online, know how to download an app on their own, have an interest in communicating with their health care team remotely, or have an account on the electronic patient portal.
CONCLUSION: As cancer centers increasingly engage patients through electronic and mobile applications, patients with low or limited digital literacy may be excluded, exacerbating current cancer health disparities. Patient-, provider- and system-level technology barriers must be understood and mitigated.
Leader, Amy; Capparella, Lisa M.; Waldman, BA, L.; Cammy, Rebecca; Petok, Alison; Dean, Rebecca; Shimada, Ayako; Yocavitch, Liana; Rising, Kristin L.; Garber, Gregory; Worster, Brooke; and Dicker, Adam, "Digital Literacy at an Urban Cancer Center: Implications for Technology Use and Vulnerable Patients" (2021). Kimmel Cancer Center Faculty Papers. Paper 79.
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