Age-based disparities, telehealth, health equity, health policy, COVID-19



  1. Pasquinelli, Mary M. DNP (Nurse Practitioner, Adjunct Clinical Instructor)


Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth rapidly emerged as an essential health care service and became particularly important for patients with cancer and chronic conditions. However, the benefits of telehealth have not been fully realized for some of the most vulnerable populations due to inequitable access to telehealth capable technology.


Purpose: This study aimed to assess accessibility and satisfaction with telehealth technology by vulnerable patients with cancer and pulmonary disease.


Methodology: A paper survey and internet-based survey were developed and administered to adult (>=18 years) cancer and pulmonary clinic patients (July 1, 2020 to October 30, 2020).


Results: Descriptive statistics and Fisher exact test were performed. Two hundred eleven patients completed the survey. Adults >=50 years old (older) had reduced access to smartphone video capability and internet connection compared with adults less than 50 years old (59% vs. 90%, p < .01). Older adults reported more challenges with telehealth visits compared with younger adults (50.3%, 28.6%; p < .01). No difference in access to technology and preferences for telehealth versus in-person care was found by race, gender, or education level.


Conclusions: Nearly all patients (95%) who had a previous experience with a telehealth visit felt confident in the quality of care they received via telehealth. Younger adults preferred video visits compared with older adults (75% vs. 50.6%, p < .01). Older adults were less likely to have access to smartphones with internet access, have more challenges with telehealth visits, and were less likely to prefer audio-video telehealth visits compared with younger adults.


Implications: Ensuring equitable access to all health care delivery modalities by telehealth, including audio-only visits for patients across the age continuum, is paramount.