Telemedicine Use and Satisfaction Among Radiation Oncologists During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Evaluation of Current Trends and Future Opportunities

Nicholas J. Damico, Alok Deshane, Michael Kharouta, Anna Wu, Gi Ming Wang, Mitchell X. Machtay, Aryavarta Kumar, Serah Choi, Aashish D. Bhatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: During the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine became an attractive alternative to in-person appointments. The role of telemedicine in patients who undergo frequent on-site treatment, such as radiation therapy, is unclear. The purpose of this study was to examine telemedicine use, physician satisfaction, and barriers to continued use in radiation oncology. Methods and Materials: An anonymous, electronic survey was distributed to radiation oncologists internationally between June and October 2020. Respondents described demographic and practice characteristics, and a 5-point Likert scale assessed provider satisfaction, ease of use, and overall utility of telemedicine. Analyses include descriptive statistics and subgroup comparisons using the χ2 test and Fisher's exact test. Results: The response rate was 4.3%. Two hundred thirty-two respondents completed the survey, 63.8% of whom were male, 52.6% aged 50 or younger, and 78.0% from the United States. Only 14.2% used telemedicine previously, which increased to 93.1% during COVID-19. Among all telemedicine users, usage rates were 77.9% for initial consultations, 97.2% for follow-up visits, and 35.9% for on-treatment visits. Of the respondents, 69.8% reported that <25% of patients requiring treatment experienced delays due to COVID-19. Most conducted appointments from the workplace, with 40.1% also doing so from home. Satisfaction was high at 73.8%, perceived usefulness was 76.9%, and 81.5% hope to continue using telemedicine after the pandemic. However, 82.4% had concerns with the inability to examine patients and 63.0% had concerns about poor patient access to the required technology. In addition, 49.5% had concerns regarding continued billing/reimbursement, less commonly at government centers (18.8%) compared with academic/satellite facilities (52.7%) and free-standing centers/community hospitals (50.7%, P = .039 for both comparisons). These concerns were also significantly higher among US physicians (53.2% vs 34.9%, P = .048). Conclusions: Widespread adoption of telemedicine by radiation oncologists occurred during COVID-19 with high rates of satisfaction and interest in continued use. Sustained reimbursement for telemedicine services is a significant concern, particularly in the United States and outside of government facilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100835
JournalAdvances in Radiation Oncology
Volume7
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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