Use of telehealth for cancer screening in primary care during COVID-19: an analysis of the Council of Academic Family Medicine Educational Research Alliance Survey 2022

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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic caused rapid uptake of telemedicine in primary care settings affecting cancer screening.

Objective: This study aimed to understand provider perception of future cancer incidence and telehealth feasibility in cancer screening.

Methods: Data were gathered and analyzed as part of the 2020 Council of Academic Family Medicine’s (CAFM) Educational Research Alliance (CERA) survey for primary analysis. The 2020 General Member COVID Survey examined demographics, the impact of faculty isolation, E-learning experience, cancer screening during COVID-19, and outpatient prenatal care. Survey participants were practicing family medicine physicians who were members of one of the CAFM organizations, with a response rate of 14.5%. Descriptive statistics were calculated. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was used to evaluate the relationship between telehealth sufficiency and provider age or year they earned their highest degree. Logistic regression evaluated the relationship between telehealth sufficiency and institution type.

Results: 54% of respondents believe that there will be an increase in late-stage cancer. Respondents whose practice settings were not affiliated with medical schools were 1.94 times more likely to feel that telehealth would not be sufficient for cancer screenings in the future (odds ratio [OR] = 1.94, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.28, 2.93).

Conclusion: While our study shows that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, primary care physicians believe there will be an increase in later stage cancer; they can also use telehealth to adequately maintain cancer screening practices. This research serves as a starting point to understanding where, in cancer screening, telehealth can be useful and how practitioners can provide high-quality hybrid care.