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Dr. Debra Patt: Using Clinical Informatics to Navigate a Crisis

May 07, 2020

Oncologists face new challenges amid COVID-19 as they manage a uniquely vulnerable patient population. Innovative technology and clinical informatics tools are being used to inform decisions and manage patient care during this time of escalating risk and complexity. In an editorial for the Journal of Clinical Oncology's Clinical Cancer Informatics, Debra Patt, M.D., MPH, MBA, executive vice president, public policy and strategic initiatives at Texas Oncology, outlines policy changes that enable cancer care delivery through technology, especially expanded use of telemedicine.

While digital health applications have existed for some time, some laws and regulations have challenged the adoption of telemedicine in cancer care. One of the most significant policy changes in response to COVID-19 opened the door widely to use of telemedicine to reduce in-person patient appointments. This enables oncologists to virtually conduct acute care appointments, new patient consultations, genetic counselor appointments, and social support groups, among others.

Dr. Patt, who also serves as medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–Austin Central, led the rapid expansion of Texas Oncology’s telemedicine capabilities from 15 to 90 percent of providers within two weeks. These telemedicine policy changes enable networks like Texas Oncology to better serve cancer patients while also reducing their risk of exposure amid a global pandemic.

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