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Grant Details

Grant Number: 1R01CA267990-01 Interpret this number
Primary Investigator: Onega, Tracy
Organization: University Of Utah
Project Title: Access, Utilization and Outcomes of Cancer Services in the Era of Telemedicine
Fiscal Year: 2022


Abstract

ABSTRACT Use of telehealth has skyrocketed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-pandemic, only 60,000 of the 63 million fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries received a telehealth service each month compared to 24.5 million from March to October, 2020, with wide geographic variation in that uptake (e.g. 8.4% in South Dakota to 47.6% in Massachusetts). This telehealth expansion comes at a time when the often-severe access issues for rural individuals have become a focus for health policy and equity. Longer travel times for rural cancer patients have been shown to negatively impact treatment regimens, RCT participation, and symptom management. Multi-specialist teams are often required for comprehensive cancer care, making care coordination in rural areas particularly challenging. These barriers have contributed to the widening gap in cancer mortality between rural and urban patients. Measuring access to cancer care is a fundamental component of both identifying gaps in access, as well as developing care delivery models to mitigate disparities. Because telehealth transcends geographic proximity, it holds great promise for addressing rural cancer care access inequities. Telehealth allows specialists to connect with geographically distant patients and providers who otherwise would have had more restricted options for referral. With the expected persistence of expanded telehealth following the COVID-19 pandemic, the time is now to develop new ways to measure access to cancer care that integrate geospatial measures with telehealth and referral patterns in order to improve equity in health care access and outcomes. Telehealth is now integral to rural cancer care in some regions, yet where gaps are in its use and how inequities in access impact utilization and outcomes is unknown. Only by measuring the new reality of cancer care access that includes telehealth, understanding telehealth impacts on outcomes, and applying this evidence to “what if” scenarios/projections, can we begin to harness and proactively direct the potential that telehealth has to reduce rural cancer disparities. This study will take the critical and timely steps of developing measures of access nationally that incorporate telehealth, identifying determinants of telehealth use in cancer care, testing effects of telehealth on cancer outcomes, and analyzing the projected impact on equity in cancer care access and outcomes if telehealth use in cancer is expanded, while considering differential effects based on the rural-urban continuum. To do this, we will use national Medicare claims for telehealth utilization among cancer patients, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) broadband data, and 2020 Census data for the entire U.S., to extend our prior geospatial cancer care access work (R21CA212687) and population-based outcomes modeling with policy relevance.



Publications


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