Patients with higher levels of digital health literacy have more positive survival outcomes during cancer, researchers reported in study findings published in JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics.

Researchers conducted a retrospective noninterventional study among 15,244 adult patients with cancer diagnosed between January 1, 2015–December 31, 2017. They measured patients’ health literacy based on whether their electronic health record included an email address and compared it with their overall survival rates.

They found that 57.5% of patients had entered an email address and 26.4% had opened their patient portal. In a subsequent multivariate analysis, they found that male gender, older age, de novo metastatic setting, and no email address were significantly associated with worse overall survival.

“The absence of an email address for patients with cancer can be considered as a modern factor of fragility, taking into account the prognostic impact on the overall survival of this population,” the researchers concluded.

Digital health history is an important social determinant of health that the National Academy of Medicine’s Future of Nursing 2020–2030 report calls for nurses to address. ONS’s 2019–2022 updated Research Agenda outlines the priorities for oncology nurse scientists to fill the evidence gaps and advocate for health equity, and nurses can learn more about how social determinants of health affect patients with cancer on the Oncology Nursing Podcast Episode 107: Social Determinants Lead to Unequal Access to Health Care.