By Mel Kauffman
Amidst the rapid changes that have come about because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we spoke to Dr. Bisham Chera for a recent podcast interview for SROA SoundBoard, our podcast for radiation oncology administrators. In “Radiation Oncology During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Dr. Bisham Chera, associate chair of Clinical Operations and Improvement and director of Patient Safety and Quality in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, shared what his department and UNC Medical School are doing during this time.
Dr. Chera remarked that the increase in telehealth is one of the most noticeable changes––patients are prescreened via telehealth prior to their appointments and upon arrival to the clinic. He said:
“The goal is to reduce the number of patients coming through our clinic to minimize them being exposed and also to create physical distancing for the patients and the providers. And so, I think that that's going to change the way medicine is practiced. And I think after the COVID-19 epidemic this telehealth is going to be a main part of medical care for patients in the United States.”
Telehealth has undergone some deregulation due to the pandemic, and Dr. Chera outlined three benefits telehealth offers:
Easier access to patients to have specialty consultations
Reduced cancer care costs with follow-up visits
Savings in terms of time and resources for patients post-treatment (e.g., PSA checks for prostate cancer survivors can be done locally and will no require long drives to the clinic).
Treating patients with COVID-19 is a serious concern for frontline healthcare staff and radiation oncology administrators who oversee their healthcare staff. Dr. Chera has experienced several patients who upon arrival have screened positive to the questions. He shared his department’s process for handling such patients.
“They immediately get put into an isolation room, given a mask, and we call infection control, or we also can get them over to get tested for COVID-19 at our walk-in facility.”
During the podcast, Dr. Chera also touches on the following topics:
Sanitation practices in radiation oncology (5:39)
Shortage of PPE and patient education (7:23)
Safety and quality changes in radiation oncology from the pandemic (12:07)
Advice to help get through this pandemic (13:14)