Day 1 of the Oncology Clinical Pathways Congress featured a timely session on cancer care and pathways amid the COVID-19 pandemic and strategies for how practices can adapt.
Barry Russo, MBA, CEO, The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, and Ray Page, DO, PhD, FACOI, FASCO, President & Director of Research, The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, University of North Texas Health Science Center (Fort Worth, TX) presented how their center has evolved to support patients during this time while still delivering high-value and high-quality clinical care.
Highlights from the discussion include innovations in infection prevention/control for patients and staff. They demonstrated new thermal screening technology with facial recognition, which can check patients into the cancer center. The tool is fully electronic with no staff/no touch needed to conduct screenings. They also are using far-UVC sterilizing lighting systems, which have 50 years of robust data on their ability to kill microorganisms. In their centers, these systems are located in the ceiling of waiting areas and infusion rooms, pulling in air, purifying it, then recirculating it.
Dr Page and Mr Russo also touched on home infusions, injections, and triage. Dr Russo said the “pandemic has taught us that we need to be better in reaching patients at home and connecting much more frequently to keep them out of hospital.” They work with an outside company who does home triage. For example, this company would send an advance practice practitioner and EMT to a patient’s home for a check in, perhaps bringing fluids or they could conduct a chest x-ray, if needed. Although the pandemic accelerated these types of changes, Dr Russo noted, these advancements in communication were needed and can help deliver better care for patients. We live in a technology-saturated world, and it makes sense to stay current.
Dr Page brought up the issue of safety, though, which needs to be kept in mind during these rapid changes in care delivery. He used the example of the new combination of pertuzumab, trastuzumab, and hyaluronidase for subQ injection in HER2+ breast cancer, the approval of which was accelerated due to COVID-19. He said we must ensure there are safety protocols in place and that administration education is efficiently given and comprehended, especially with home care.
Finally, they summarized their approach to symptom management and triage pathways. Mr Russo said they have “beefed up” their health tracker and connectivity tools for patients, especially those on oral therapy to make sure they stay on top of any toxicities or side effects. They are able to text patients on a proactive basis regarding daily symptoms, specifically honing-in on the highest risk populations using a risk-stratification process. Again, they want to keep patients out of the hospital or cancer center so as to lower exposure risks.—Amanda Del Signore