Teleoncology for the delivery of oncology care in central Montana
Linhart, Heidi Marie
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Around the globe telemedicine is being explored as a viable type of healthcare delivery for rurally located oncology patients. Telemedicine for oncology patients (teleoncology) is available for rural Central Montana patients through visiting oncologists. Despite this availability of teleoncology, there is no local evidence for the levels of patient or provider acceptability or satisfaction with teleoncology. The purpose of this project was to explore a practice change initiative for teleoncology practices in Central Montana through the gathering of baseline information from both outreach oncology patients and rural healthcare providers' satisfaction with teleoncology care. Two sample groups of oncology patients were surveyed, including: participants in face-to-face (F) appointments (N=21), and participants in telemedicine (T) appointments (N=21). Local primary care providers who refer to the visiting oncologist were also surveyed (N=12; 92% response rate). Two survey tools were used, 'Local Provider Survey of Satisfaction with Teleoncology' and 'Patient Survey of Satisfaction with Outreach Oncology Clinic'. Both patient groups were administered the same survey following appointments to compare results. Descriptive statistics and two-sample T-Tests were used to analyze the survey results. There were no significant differences in satisfaction with the care delivered when comparing the T and F patient groups, indicating teleoncology visits are comparable to face-to-face visits. Eighty-one percent (81%) of T patients reported being satisfied. There was an overall lack of awareness of the availability of teleoncology amongst all those surveyed; 93% of F patients, 46% of T patients, and 42% of providers were not aware teleoncology was available prior to the survey. Although providers reported neutral answers on the survey, the majority (58%) have no experience with teleoncology but 80% of providers denied concerns with this type of appointment. Overall, Central Montana patients report satisfaction with teleoncology as an augmenter to rural oncology care. Providers have minimal concerns with the current state of teleoncology despite limited experience with this modality of care. The evidence was disseminated to the local healthcare community and publicly in Central Montana.