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How I Practice Now: Practice-Wide Changes at Texas Oncology

Publication: Journal of Clinical Pathways

Cancer care can’t stop, even in the midst of a pandemic. That’s why Texas Oncology continues to provide vital care for cancer patients during the COVID-19 health crisis.

The mission of the practice is providing uninterrupted, high-quality cancer care in a safe, supportive environment. Open and ongoing communication with our staff and patients has been key as we continue to provide evidence-based care to cancer patients during this crisis.

Adaptability is a mainstay. We’ve had to implement practice-wide changes in response to COVID-19. To make this transition as smooth as possible under these unprecedented circumstances, adaptability is key.

The changes we have made include calling patients the day before clinic to do screening for them on the phone. We also screen them again before they come inside our clinic to make sure that we keep our patients and other staff safe. We also have onsite safety measures such as signage and reminders to practice good hygiene, as well as safety protocols with masking and isolating patients who may have been infected with COVID.

The biggest change we have made, however, is telemedicine. We have a practice-wide telemedicine program now, which is critical to safeguarding our patient’s care. We see more than 55,000 new cancer patients each year with Texas Oncology. Telemedicine is a safe alternative for many of them – for new patient consultations, follow-up visits, survivorship, and other important appointments to keep them on track. We are currently conducting almost 1500 telemedicine visits per day on average, and using this technology allows us to provide high-quality cancer care to our patients from the comfort and safety of their homes.

Both our care teams and patients are used to face-to-face appointments, so this is a huge change for everybody. Cancer patients need a large support system, and we are using these appointments to ensure our patients are staying connected to us. Our social work department has helped us with being able to show empathy to patients using a digital platform when we are used to doing it in person. We are also able to conduct conference calls with family members, since we are only allowing minimal visitors to our clinics. Our family members and loved ones can keep abreast of patient treatment and progress.

We’re also allowing our staff to work remotely if they’re able to. It’s difficult when most of our staff provide direct patient care, but those that do not in supportive and administrative functions are allowed to work from home. Doing this safely, and having the right security measures in place, is challenging but something we’ve met head-on.

We also continually reinforce guidelines for personal protective equipment, as well as spent a lot of time trying to find personal protective equipment to keep our staff and patients safe.

View the full story at Journal of Clinical Pathways.

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