OBJECTIVES: Although the increasing cancer incidence in older patients is widely recognised, older patients remain underrepresented in clinical cancer trials and eHealth studies. The aim of this research is to identify technological and patient-related barriers to inclusion of this population in a clinical eHealth study.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: This is a retrospective analysis of a prospective cohort study with older patients (≥ 65 years) undergoing cancer-related surgery, who were identified for a perioperative telemonitoring study. Reasons for ineligibility and refusal had been prospectively registered. Characteristics and postoperative outcomes were compared between participants and non-participants.
RESULTS: Between May 2018 and March 2020, 151 patients were assessed for eligibility, resulting in 65 participants and 86 non-participants. The main reason for ineligibility was lack of internet access at home (n = 16), while main reasons for refusal were perceived high mental burden (n = 46) and insufficient digital skills (n = 12). Compared with participants, non-participants were significantly older (mean age 75 vs. 73, p = 0.01); more often female (64% vs. 35%, p = 0.00), unmarried (42% vs. 8%, p = 0.01) living alone (38% vs. 19%, p = 0.02); had a higher ASA classification (43% vs. 19%, p = 0.00); often had polypharmacy (67% vs. 43%, p = 0.00); and were more often discharged to skilled nursing facilities (0% vs. 15%, p = 0.00).
CONCLUSION: Our results confirm the underrepresentation of older female patients with little support from a partner and higher comorbidity. We should be aware of technological and patient-related barriers to including older adults with cancer, in order to avoid further dividing patients with low and high digital health literacy.