Tam S, Neslund-Dudas C, Barrett AM, Barrow LCJ, Fridman I, Kinlaw AC, Puviindran P, Royce TJ, Smith AB, Stein JN, Wood WA, Lafata JE. The perceived usability of virtual visits among black adults' receiving oncology care: a qualitative analysis. Oncologist. 2024 Feb 2;29(2):e237-47. doi: 10.1093/oncolo/oyad260

BACKGROUND: With the COVID-19 pandemic came rapid uptake in virtual oncology care. During this, sociodemographic inequities in access to virtual visits (VVs) have become apparent. To better understand these issues, we conducted a qualitative study to describe the perceived usability and acceptability of VVs among Black adults diagnosed with cancer.

METHODS: Adults who self-identified as Black and had a diagnosis of prostate, multiple myeloma, or head and neck cancer were recruited from 2 academic medical centers, and their community affiliates to participate in a semi-structured interview, regardless of prior VV experience. A patient and family advisory board was formed to inform all components of the study. Interviews were conducted between September 2, 2021 and February 23, 2022. Transcripts were organized topically, and themes and subthemes were determined through iterative and interpretive immersion/crystallization cycles.

RESULTS: Of the 49 adults interviewed, 29 (59%) had participated in at least one VV. Three overarching themes were derived: (1) VVs felt comfortable and convenient in the right contexts; (2) the technology required for VVs with video presented new challenges, which were often resolved by an audio-only telephone call; and (3) participants reported preferring in-person visits, citing concerns regarding gaps in nonverbal communication, trusting providers, and distractions during VV.

CONCLUSION: While VVs were reported to be acceptable in specific circumstances, Black adults reported preferring in-person care, in part due to a perceived lack of interpersonal connectedness. Nonetheless, retaining reimbursement for audio-only options for VVs is essential to ensure equitable access for those with less technology savvy and/or limited device/internet capabilities.

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