Telemedicine has the potential to lessen healthcare burden of older patients due to frequent appointments, physical disabilities, and reliance on caretakers. To benefit from telemedicine, patients must have the capacity and willingness to engage with technology. This study aimed to better understand the telemedicine experiences of older women with non-metastatic breast cancer regarding visit convenience, completeness, and interpersonal satisfaction.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted in a convenience sample of women age 65+, post-primary treatment for stage I–III breast cancer, who had received in-person outpatient care at a cancer center in urban North Carolina before a telemedicine appointment occurring after March 2020. Patients were interviewed about their perceptions of telemedicine (telephone, video) as compared to in-person visits. Audio files of interviews were transcribed and analyzed for themes and subthemes established a priori in the interview protocol.
Fifteen patients (telephone = 5, video = 10) were consented and interviewed July–October 2021, mean age 74. Thirteen participants reported they preferred a hybrid care model that included telemedicine care over in-person care alone. COVID-19, physical disability, and transportation burden were the most common factors for telemedicine preference. Comfort with familiar face-to-face interactions and having a physical exam were common factors for in-person appointment preference. In-person appointment was favored early in the post-primary treatment phase; telemedicine was more acceptable when relationships were well-established and patients were farther out from diagnosis.
Patient-provider discussions about appointment modality should take into account newness of diagnosis, patient familiarity with the care team, travel burden, and necessity of physical exam.