HumanInsight The potential of eHealth for cancer patients-does COVID-19 pandemic change the attitude towards use of telemedicine services?
PLoS One. 2023 Feb 10;18(2):e0280723. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0280723. eCollection 2023.
BACKGROUND: Internet penetration worldwide has increased rapidly over the recent years. With this growth, modern information and communication technologies (ICT) have become increasingly important. They do not only change daily life but also patient-physician interaction and health related information search, which can be summarized as electronic Health (eHealth). eHealth was already known before the emergence of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but this pandemic substantially challenged health systems, physicians and hospitals so profoundly that new services and methods of patient-physician interaction had to be implemented rapidly. This study investigates the attitude of cancer patients towards eHealth and the potential impact of COVID-19 on its use.
METHODS AND FINDINGS: The study was a multicentered study carried out at the university hospitals Bonn and Aachen. Patients were asked to answer a structured questionnaire in the time span between September 2019 and February 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no patients were addressed between March 2020 and July 2020. The questionnaire focused on socio-demographic data, the dissemination of internet-enabled devices, the patients' attitude towards eHealth and the use of modern ICT in daily life and for health-related information search. In total, 280 patients have filled the questionnaire of which 48% were female and 52% were male. Men have a slightly more positive attitude towards the overall potential of eHealth than women which was shown by a significant influence for receiving medical information via e-mail. Hematological-oncological patients with a higher education level reported a significantly higher willingness to send personal health information to their physician and health insurance. A frequency of medical consultation of more than 5 times during the previous year has a significantly positive impact regarding the use of online communication, online video consultation and treatment quality. Younger patients have more concerns about data security than older patients. The study shows a different attitude towards the influence of eHealth on the patient-physician relationship in different therapy situations. While there were no significant changes in patients' attitude towards eHealth after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a trend towards an increasingly embracing attitude in patients, who answered the questionnaire during COVID-19 pandemic situation.
CONCLUSIONS: Overall, cancer patients had a positive attitude towards eHealth and the dissemination of internet-enabled devices was high. The study shows that the potential of eHealth is high among hematological-oncological patients. Further eHealth technologies and especially telemedically supported care processes should be implemented to improve patient-physician interaction and cross-sectoral care. COVID-19 pandemic led to a fast initiation and acceleration of new structures and routines for physicians, hospitals and patients. These new processes should be used to promote digitalization in hematological and oncological telemedicine. To successfully implement new eHealth technologies, future research should focus on patients' concerns about data privacy and data availability especially in the context of exchange of medical information in cross sectoral and interdisciplinary care processes.
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