Using digital health to promote equity in community oncology practice

Debra A. Patt, MD, PhD, MBA, practicing oncologist and executive vice president of Texas Oncology, discusses a study of digital health systems used in Texas oncology sites and how it helps with communication at distance between cancer patients and clinicians.

The study looked at 7,347 unique patients who were involved in 651,004 digital encounters. The objective of the study was to evaluate 3 digital tools, including an electronic patient-reported outcome program, a patient portal for health records, and digital patient education, according to Patt.

Overall, the study showed that patients living in rural areas make up 25% of the practice’s population. Patients continue to use digital health solutions, and Texas Oncology continues to evaluate its digital health tools to improve remaining barriers.


0:08| So we really looked at usage trends for four different tools that we use to deliver digital healthcare to patients. One of them is a nurse triage system, i.e. care management. So that’s if you have some kind of cancer patient calling with a symptom. And they, they’re triaged by a nurse, and the nurse uses triage pathways to manage patients’ symptoms. The second is an electronic patient-reported outcome instrument, i.e., an electronic mechanism that is a web-based platform that performs symptom assessment. And again, that symptom assessment, if it hits certain severity triggers, pushes the information to a nurse to intervene. The third is the patient portal, which allows patients to connect to personalized health information about their cancer, laboratories, medications, diagnosis, and thus obtain information about their health care. And the fourth is digital healthcare education. And that’s specific information about a patient’s cancer or information about a specific treatment that we pass on to them on the portal so they can learn and improve their health literacy.

1h20 | So we deployed these digital healthcare tools in collaboration with a partner named Navigating Cancer. They are a provider of digital health solutions to help patients navigate their cancer journey. And we reported on 300,000 patient contacts with digital healthcare to try to understand how patients interact with the platforms based on their different ages, races, genders, distance from clinic and native language.


Patt DA, Patel AM, Hudson KE, et al. Analyze patient engagement with digital health tools to facilitate equity in a large statewide community oncology practice. J Clin Oncol. 2022; 40 (16):1575-1575. do: 10.1200/JCO.2022.40.16_suppl.1575

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