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This is the final version of the article published in JAMA Network Open, 2021;4(1):e2033967.

The article can also be accessed on the journals webpage:

Publication made possible in part by support from the Jefferson Open Access Fund


IMPORTANCE: Telehealth has emerged as a means of improving access and reducing cost for medical oncology care; however, use by specialists prior to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic still remained low. Medical oncology professionals’ perceptions of telehealth for cancer care are largely unknown, but are critical to telehealth utilization and expansion efforts.

OBJECTIVE: To identify medical oncology health professionals’ perceptions of the barriers to and benefits of telehealth video visits.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This qualitative study used interviews conducted from October 30, 2019, to March 5, 2020, of medical oncology health professionals at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, an urban academic health system in the US with a cancer center. All medical oncology physicians, physicians assistants, and nurse practitioners at the hospital were eligible to participate. A combination of volunteer and convenience sampling was used, resulting in the participation of 29 medical oncology health professionals, including 20 physicians and 9 advanced practice professionals, in semistructured interviews.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Medical oncology health professionals’ perceptions of barriers to and benefits of telehealth video visits as experienced by patients receiving cancer treatment.

RESULTS: Of the 29 participants, 15 (52%) were women and 22 (76%) were White, with a mean (SD) age of 48.5 (12.0) years. Respondents’ perceptions were organized using the 4 domains of the National Quality Forum framework: clinical effectiveness, patient experience, access to care, and financial impact. Respondents disagreed on the clinical effectiveness and potential limitations of the virtual physical examination, as well as on the financial impact on patients. Respondents also largely recognized the convenience and improved access to care enabled by telehealth for patients. However, many reported concern regarding the health professional–patient relationship and their limited ability to comfort patients in a virtual setting.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Medical oncology health professionals shared conflicting opinions regarding the barriers to and benefits of telehealth in regard to clinical effectiveness, patient experience, access to care, and financial impact. Understanding oncologists’ perceptions of telehealth elucidates potential barriers that need to be further investigated or improved for telehealth expansion and continued utilization; further research is ongoing to assess current perceptions of health professionals and patients given the rapid expansion of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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