Patient-centered outcomes of telehealth for the care of rural-residing patients with urologic cancer.

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BACKGROUND: Patients residing in rural areas with urologic cancers confront significant obstacles in obtaining oncologic care. In the Pacific Northwest, a sizeable portion of the population lives in a rural county. Telehealth offers a potential access solution.

METHODS: Patients receiving urologic care through telehealth or an in-person appointment at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Washington, were surveyed to assess appointment-related satisfaction and travel costs. Patients' residences were classified as rural or urban based on their self-reported ZIP code. Median patient satisfaction scores and appointment-related travel costs were compared by rural versus urban residence within telehealth and in-person appointment groups using Wilcoxon signed-rank or χ

RESULTS: A total of 1091 patients seen for urologic cancer care between June 2019 and April 2022 were included, 28.7% of which resided in a rural county. Patients were mostly non-Hispanic White (75%) and covered by Medicare (58%). Among rural-residing patients, telehealth and in-person appointment groups had the same median satisfaction score (61; interquartile ratio, 58, 63). More rural-residing than urban-residing patients in the telehealth appointment groups strongly agreed that "Considering the cost and time commitment of my appointment, I would choose to meet with my provider in this setting in the future" (67% vs. 58%, p = .03). Rural-residing patients with in-person appointments carried a higher financial burden than those with telehealth appointments (medians, $80 vs. $0; p <.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Appointment-related costs are high among rural-residing patients traveling for urologic oncologic care. Telehealth provides an affordable solution that does not compromise patient satisfaction.


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