The following is a summary of the “Access to telehealth services for colorectal cancer patients in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic” published in the November 2022 issue of Surgery by Marks et al.

Rapid telehealth adoption resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, facilitating better access to healthcare, even for patients undergoing surgery.

For a study, researchers sought to evaluate the availability of telehealth for both initial patient treatment and follow-up colorectal cancer care visits in a random national sample of hospitals recognized by the Commission on Cancer, so they performed a secret shopper survey and looked into predicting facility-level characteristics.

For patients with colorectal cancer, 302 out of 397 institutions (or 76% of all hospitals) offered telemedicine (75% for follow-up, 42% for new patients). Integrated Network (OR: 0.20, P = 0.01), Academic Comprehensive (OR: 0.18, P = 0.001), Comprehensive Community (OR: 0.10, P< 0.001), and Community (OR: 0.11, P< 0.001) Cancer Programs all offered telehealth less frequently to new patients than NCI-designated Cancer Programs did. Hospitals with above-average timeliness of care offered telemedicine more frequently than typical hospitals for follow-up (OR: 2.87, P = 0.04).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, they observed access inequalities and predicted indicators for telehealth availability for colorectal cancer care. Therefore, when drafting telehealth policy, these elements should be taken into account.