INTRODUCTION: Racial disparities in colorectal cancer (CRC) can be addressed through increased adherence to screening guidelines. In real-life encounters, patients may be more willing to follow screening recommendations delivered by a race concordant clinician. The growth of telehealth to deliver care provides an opportunity to explore whether these effects translate to a virtual setting. The primary purpose of this pilot study is to explore the relationships between virtual clinician (VC) characteristics and CRC screening intentions after engagement with a telehealth intervention leveraging technology to deliver tailored CRC prevention messaging. METHODS: Using a posttest-only design with three factors (VC race-matching, VC gender, Intervention type), participants (N = 2267) were randomized to one of eight intervention treatments. Participants self-reported perceptions and behavioral intentions. RESULTS: The benefits of matching participants with a racially similar VC trended positive but did not reach statistical significance. Specifically, race-matching positively influenced screening intentions for Black participants but not for Whites (b = .29, p = .10). Importantly, perceptions of credibility, attractiveness, and message relevance significantly influenced screening intentions and the relationship with race-matching. CONCLUSIONS: To reduce racial CRC screening disparities, investments are needed to identify patient-focused interventions to address structural barriers to screening. This study suggests that telehealth interventions that match Black patients with a Black VC can enhance perceptions of credibility and message relevance, which may then improve screening intentions. Future research is needed to examine how to increase VC credibility and attractiveness, as well as message relevance without race-matching.
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