Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Meeting the Needs of Rural Cancer Patients in Survivorship: Understanding Age Differences in the Role of Telehealth (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

344P (see Poster Gallery) Meeting the Needs of Rural Cancer Patients in Survivorship: Understanding Age Differences in the Role of Telehealth

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Tamara Cadet, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania
Cindy Davis, PhD, Head, Social Work, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Down, QLD, Australia
Karina Rune, PhD, Lecturer, University of the Sunshine Coast, QLD, Australia
Background and Purpose: Access to health services and quality of life are important factors for cancer survivors that are well-documented in the literature. COVID-19 has significantly impacted cancer patients globally as cancer treatments centers limited their services and survivors were forced to isolate at home. Further, older adults experienced an increase in negative outcomes, such as hospitalization and mortality. The purpose of the current study is to explore the role of telehealth in providing health and supportive services to Australian rural/regional cancer patients during COVID-19 and their attitudes on the quality of these services via telehealth in the future. The specific research questions were to compare by age the experiences of Australian rural/regional cancer survivors’ ability to access health and support services via telemedicine during COVID-19; their preferences of using telehealth in the future and differences in the utilization and preferences of telehealth.

Methods: Rural cancer survivors (n=66) completed an online survey regarding the transition and delivery of health and support services via telehealth during COVID-19 and their preferences for telehealth in the future. Data was collected as part of a bi-annual survey on client satisfaction at a rural/regional community cancer wellness center in Australia.

Results: Participants included 71% females and 29% males with 48% younger survivors (under 64 years), and 52% older survivors (65 years and over). Only 2 participants identified as Indigenous. Participants had a diverse range of cancer types, with the most common being breast (n=30), prostrate (n=7), gastrointestinal (n=6), lung (n=4), melanoma (n=3), gynecologic (n=3), and lymphoma (n=3). Nearly 40% of participants were currently undergoing treatment for a new diagnosis or a recurrence.

Findings revealed that younger participants were significantly more likely to use allied health services via video/telehealth during COVID-19 compared to their older counterparts (x2=7.94; p<.005). Findings further revealed that the preferred format for nursing health services in the future was face-to-face (59% for younger participants and 42% for older) telehealth (10% for both groups), and mixed (31% for younger participants and 48% for older participants). Although not statistically significant (p>.05), it is interesting that the older cohort had a greater preference for a mixed modality of face-to-face and telehealth in meeting their future health service needs.

Conclusions and Implications: Rural and regional cancer patients do not generally have access to multidisciplinary cancer care centers to provide health and supportive care close to home. Telehealth has significant benefits for the delivery of health and supportive services to rural/regional cancer patients. Social workers can play a key role in assessing the support needs of cancer survivors and facilitating strategies to ensure that survivors and their families have the skills necessary to access virtual support and health services.