Telehealth Offers ‘Significantly Lower’ Costs for Rural Patients with Urologic Cancer


Opting for telehealth appointments can make a big financial difference for rural-residing patients receiving urologic cancer care.

Patients with urologic cancer residing in rural areas received affordable care thanks to telehealth appointments with providers, according to the findings of a recent study.

Authors of the study, published in April in the journal Cancer, analyzed cost differences between rural- and urban-residing patients receiving urologic cancer care. For patients residing in rural areas, traveling far for an in-person appointment could be costly. However, telehealth offered an affordable option without compromising patient satisfaction.

The authors of this study evaluated data from a total of 1,090 patients receiving urologic cancer care, in which approximately 29% of the patients resided in rural areas or small towns. Of the total patients in the study, 75% identified as non-Hispanic White and 58% were covered by Medicare.

Patients residing in rural areas often had to tolerate the travel expenses of in-person appointments, costing around $80, whereas telehealth would cost $0 for travel. Not only was telehealth more financially friendly, but patients also felt satisfied with the care they received via telehealth.

“Additionally, urban‐residing patients with telehealth appointments also had significantly lower appointment‐related costs than those with in‐person appointments,” the authors of the study wrote. “As such, our study supports the expanded use of telehealth for all urologic oncology patients, regardless of rural or urban residence.”

Patient Satisfaction Regarding Telehealth Services

Patients receiving urologic care who resided in both urban and rural-residing areas were highly satisfied with their telehealth experiences. Still, compared with urban-residing patients with telehealth appointments, urban-residing patients with in-person appointments were more likely to “strongly agree” with feeling comfortable sharing sensitive or private information with their provider.

The authors from this study also established that, “it is important to continue to evaluate the impact the growth of telehealth care could have on the quality of provider‐patient relationships moving forward given that having a strong provider‐patient relationship is an important prognosticator of cancer care satisfaction and health‐related quality of life.”

From the survey, and compared to urban-residing patients, more of the rural-residing patients said they “strongly agreed” with using telehealth services again in the future, considering the cost and time commitment of their appointment.

Overall, patients were highly satisfied with their appointments, as 98% of patients said they “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with how satisfied they were with their appointment. Ninety-two percent of patients said they “agreed” that their visits were on-time and efficient. Regarding appointment satisfaction scores, rural-residing patients had a satisfaction score of 58 to 63 for in-person care and 61 for telehealth, whereas urban-residing patients had a satisfaction score of 60 for in-person care and 61 for telehealth.

The authors concluded that “local and national health policies should reorient to make telehealth more readily available to the likely benefit of rural-residing patients with cancer.”

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