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      Implementing telemedicine for the management of benign urologic conditions: a single centre experience in Italy

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          Abstract

          Purpose

          To assess the use of telemedicine with phone-call visits as a practical tool to follow-up with patients affected by urological benign diseases, whose clinic visits had been cancelled during the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

          Methods

          Patients were contacted via phone-call and a specific questionnaire was administered to evaluate the health status of these patients and to identify those who needed an “in-person” ambulatory visit due to the worsening of their condition. Secondarily, the patients’ perception of a potential shift towards a “telemedicine” approach to the management of their condition and to indirectly evaluate their desire to return to “in-person” clinic visits.

          Results

          607 were contacted by phone-call. 87.5% (531/607) of the cases showed stability of the symptoms so no clinic in-person or emergency visits were needed. 81.5% (495/607) of patients were more concerned about the risk of contagion than their urological condition. The median score for phone visit comprehensibility and ease of communication of exams was 5/5; whilst patients’ perception of phone visits’ usefulness was scored 4/5. 53% (322/607) of the interviewees didn’t own the basic supports required to be able to perform a real telemedicine consult according to the required standards.

          Conclusion

          Telemedicine approach limits the number of unnecessary accesses to medical facilities and represents an important tool for the limitation of the risk of transmission of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19. However, infrastructures, health workers and patients should reach out to a computerization process to allow a wider diffusion of more advanced forms of telemedicine, such as televisit.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (10.1007/s00345-020-03536-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 20

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          COVID-19 and Italy: what next?

          Summary The spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has already taken on pandemic proportions, affecting over 100 countries in a matter of weeks. A global response to prepare health systems worldwide is imperative. Although containment measures in China have reduced new cases by more than 90%, this reduction is not the case elsewhere, and Italy has been particularly affected. There is now grave concern regarding the Italian national health system's capacity to effectively respond to the needs of patients who are infected and require intensive care for SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia. The percentage of patients in intensive care reported daily in Italy between March 1 and March 11, 2020, has consistently been between 9% and 11% of patients who are actively infected. The number of patients infected since Feb 21 in Italy closely follows an exponential trend. If this trend continues for 1 more week, there will be 30 000 infected patients. Intensive care units will then be at maximum capacity; up to 4000 hospital beds will be needed by mid-April, 2020. Our analysis might help political leaders and health authorities to allocate enough resources, including personnel, beds, and intensive care facilities, to manage the situation in the next few days and weeks. If the Italian outbreak follows a similar trend as in Hubei province, China, the number of newly infected patients could start to decrease within 3–4 days, departing from the exponential trend. However, this cannot currently be predicted because of differences between social distancing measures and the capacity to quickly build dedicated facilities in China.
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            Urology practice during the COVID-19 pandemic

            The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 and the disease it causes, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is generating a rapid and tragic health emergency in Italy due to the need to provide assistance to an overwhelming number of infected patients and, at the same time, treat all the non-deferrable oncological and benign conditions. A panel of Italian urologists has agreed on possible strategies for the reorganization of urological routine practice and on a set of recommendations that should facilitate the process of rescheduling both surgical and outpatient activities during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the subsequent phases. This document could be a valid tool to be used in routine clinical practice and, possibly, a cornerstone for further discussion on the topic also considering the further evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also may provide useful recommendations for national and international urological societies in a condition of emergency.
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              Assessing the Burden of Nondeferrable Major Uro-oncologic Surgery to Guide Prioritisation Strategies During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Insights from Three Italian High-volume Referral Centres.

              The coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to an unprecedented emergency scenario for all aspects of health care, including urology. At the time of writing, Italy was the country with the highest rates of both infection and mortality. A panel of experts recently released recommendations for prioritising urologic surgeries in a low-resource setting. Of note, major cancer surgery represents a compelling challenge. However, the burden of these procedures and the impact of such recommendations on urologic practice are currently unknown. To fill this gap, we assessed the yearly proportion of high-priority major uro-oncologic surgeries at three Italian high-volume academic centres. Of 2387 major cancer surgeries, 32.3% were classified as high priority (12.6% of radical nephroureterectomy, 17.3% of nephrectomy, 33.9% of radical prostatectomy, and 36.2% of radical cystectomy cases). Moreover, 26.4% of high-priority major cancer surgeries were performed in patients at higher perioperative risk (American Society of Anesthesiologists score ≥3), with radical cystectomy contributing the most to this cohort (50%). Our real-life data contextualise ongoing recommendations on prioritisation strategies during the current COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the need for better patient selection for surgery. We found that approximately two-thirds of elective major uro-oncologic surgeries can be safely postponed or changed to another treatment modality when the availability of health care resources is reduced. PATIENT SUMMARY: We used data from three high-volume Italian academic urology centres to evaluate how many surgeries performed for prostate, bladder, kidney, and upper tract urothelial cancer can be postponed in times of emergency. We found that approximately two-thirds of patients with these cancers do not require high-priority surgery. Conversely, of patients requiring high-priority surgery, approximately one in four is considered at high perioperative risk. These patients may pose challenges in allocation of resources in critical scenarios such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                checcu.e@hotmail.it
                Journal
                World J Urol
                World J Urol
                World Journal of Urology
                Springer Berlin Heidelberg (Berlin/Heidelberg )
                0724-4983
                1433-8726
                1 January 2021
                : 1-7
                Affiliations
                [1 ]GRID grid.7605.4, ISNI 0000 0001 2336 6580, Division of Urology, Department of Oncology, School of Medicine, San Luigi Hospital, , University of Turin, ; Regione Gonzole 10, 10043 Orbassano, Turin Italy
                [2 ]GRID grid.466642.4, ISNI 0000 0004 0646 1238, Uro-technology and SoMe Working Group of the Young Academic Urologists (YAU) Working Party of the European Association of Urology (EAU), ; Arnhem, The Netherlands
                [3 ]GRID grid.419555.9, ISNI 0000 0004 1759 7675, Department of Surgery, , Candiolo Cancer Institute, FPO-IRCCS, ; Candiolo, Turin, Italy
                [4 ]GRID grid.4800.c, ISNI 0000 0004 1937 0343, Department of Electronics and Telecommunications, , Polytechnic University of Turin, ; Turin, Italy
                [5 ]GRID grid.224260.0, ISNI 0000 0004 0458 8737, Division of Urology, , VCU Health, ; Richmond, VA USA
                Article
                3536
                10.1007/s00345-020-03536-x
                7775638
                33385246
                © Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2021

                This article is made available via the PMC Open Access Subset for unrestricted research re-use and secondary analysis in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for the duration of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic.

                Categories
                Original Article

                Urology

                telemedicine, covid-19, bph, urology, telehealth, phone-counselling

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