Lehigh County Health & Medicine Fall/Winter 2020 - 16

FEATURE

Fighting
Cancer
During a
Pandemic
Keeping Patients, Physicians
and Families Safe
By DONNA BAVER ROVITO

Reprinted by permission from Strategies magazine,
Bay Media, Inc., and link to www.strategiesoncology.com

C

OVID-19 has impacted society in
incalculable ways. Or, as Huntsville,
Alabama-based radiation oncologist
Ashlyn Everett, MD, puts it: " Unfortunately, I think we have settled into a 'new
normal' and will not be able to return to 'the
way it was' for several months. "
" New normal " has become 2020's catchphrase,
as health care professionals strive to adopt safety
measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic
on their patients and their own families.

We interviewed three oncologists in different
parts of the country to learn how they have
adapted their practice and interactions with their
own families to minimize risk. In addition to Dr.
Everett, we spoke with Carol Tweed, MD, from
the Anne Arundel Medical Center Oncology &
Hematology Group in Annapolis, Maryland and
Mark Lewis, MD, Director of Gastrointestinal
Oncology at Intermountain Healthcare in Murray,
Utah. Dr. Lewis is a cancer survivor.

including limiting the number of patients,
due to: " PPE limitation, lack of established
pandemic clinic operations practices, concern re:
viral transmission and need to socially distance
in the work place, financial strain caused by
the pandemic, deployment of clinic staff to
inpatient COVID care and furloughed staff, "
says Dr. Tweed.
Dr. Lewis has shifted to telemedicine for
surveillance and follow-up patients. " We contact
them remotely using phone or, preferably, video
platforms. This allows them to avoid traveling
to our clinic, which could be a high-volume
node of viral transmission, and lets us keep
patient volumes manageable in terms of social
distancing and exam room turnover. "

Dr. Tweed supports telemedicine's role: " The
pandemic has offered a chance to restructure
clinical care in general, with incorporation of
telemedicine into the current care model and
a continued role for telemedicine in the future.
The future 'usual' will look quite different than
Oncology services have continued through- the pre-pandemic 'usual.' "
out the pandemic, albeit with modifications,
16 Lehigh County Health & Medicine | FALL / WINTER 2020

All three physicians have continued to treat
their sickest patients uninterrupted. " The
metastatic group has continued on treatment
almost without interruption, largely because
we adjudged the threat of unopposed cancer to
outweigh the risk of COVID-19, " says Dr. Lewis,
a topic he discusses further in the New England
Journal of Medicine. (https://www.nejm.org/doi/
full/10.1056/NEJMp2006588)
Their practices have adopted significant safety
measures: " Patients and staff wear masks at all
times; everyone is screened upon entry to our
facilities. Limited visitors, social distancing in
waiting areas. Special cleaning procedures. No
contact check-in, " says Dr. Everett.
" Patients stay in car until summoned for
appointment. Patients are screened for COVID
symptoms in advance. All must be masked.
Surfaces/chairs are cleaned routinely. Check-out
lines have been replaced by check-outs in patient
rooms or by phone after visit, " adds Dr. Tweed.
The three oncologists reassure patients that
COVID-19 should not deter them from


http://www.strategiesoncology.com/ https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2006588 https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2006588

Lehigh County Health & Medicine Fall/Winter 2020

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