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How a Cancer Survivor Helped Seniors Utilize Telehealth During the Pandemic

Loretta Herring

Founder, Cancer Awareness Network

When the pandemic began, communicating electronically became a lifeline, but many people lack the technology or skills to participate in virtual meetings, or, more importantly, virtual doctor’s visits. Loretta Herring, founder of the Birmingham, Alabama, community organization Cancer Awareness Network, set out to help seniors in her community to use telehealth. 

A cancer survivor and advocate, Herring participated in the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) Telehealth Project last spring. NCCS collected feedback from cancer survivors about their experience with telehealth and created resources for patients and providers. But Herring wanted to do more — to help African American cancer survivors over age 55 in her local community.

Herring saw firsthand some of the challenges of virtual meetings in her community. When she called to check on a friend who missed a group Zoom meeting, her friend said, “I don’t know what Zoom is.” She found this technology barrier to be a common theme. Herring once referred to a computer mouse when speaking to an 80-year-old cancer survivor, who exclaimed, “I don’t have mice in my house!”

Compassion and patience

Building on her experience with NCCS, Herring created Project Telehealth to assist seniors with technology for telehealth visits. She trained a group of telehealth educators on technology and safety standards, and how to support seniors with compassion and patience.

Herring says the pilot has helped patients attend their telehealth visits and make the most out of them. Patients will often log in early to their appointments with prepared questions and notes, in addition to checking their blood pressure or other vital signs in advance of the visit. 

Unfortunately, not every patient has access to the technology needed for telehealth visits. Herring was able to provide some patients with a table to use during the pilot and is currently seeking funding to expand the project’s resources. 

Learn more about the NCCS Telehealth Project here.

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