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      The Day after Tomorrow: How Should We Address Health System Organization to Treat Cancer Patients after the Peak of the COVID-19 Epidemic?

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          On March 11, 2020, the WHO director general declared COVID-19 a pandemic. This pandemic evolves in successive phases, i.e., phase 1 (the start phase), phase 2 (“the storm”), and phase 3 (the recession). To date, oncology and surgery groups have only given instructions for addressing phases 1 and 2. To prevent excess cancer mortality, health care systems (HCS) need to be restructured. Our aim is to detail the specificities of each epidemic phase and discuss several methods of organization to optimize cancer patient flow during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly during phase 3. Hospitals must be reorganized in order to create a cancer hub that is free of infection, allowing for the safe treatment of patients. Hospital structures are different, but all allow for the creation of virus-free areas. Screening programs are critical and need to be applied to all people entering the virus-free zone, including health care workers. Some reorganization proposals are internal to a hospital, while others require interhospital collaboration. The heterogeneity and complexity of HCS will make interhospital management difficult. The ministry of health has an important role in managing the cancer crisis. Cancer management should be declared a priority. Oncological and surgical societies must coordinate their efforts to facilitate this prioritization. The anticipation of oncological management during phase 3 of the pandemic is necessary because it requires a complete readjustment of HCS. This adaptation should allow for the continuation of cancer care to prevent excess cancer mortality, as the virus will still be present for a currently undetermined period of time.

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          Most cited references 17

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          COVID-19: Global radiation oncology’s targeted response for pandemic preparedness

          Highlights • COVID-19 requires measures to reduce infection spread between patients and the radiation oncology workforce. • Planning is required to create capacity and continue essential treatments despite a reduced workforce. • This document summarises discussions held during an urgent online Twitter #radonc journal club. • Themes are infection prevention, reducing fractions and treatment policies in the presence of infection.
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            Telemedicine in Cancer Care

            Telemedicine uses telecommunications technology as a tool to deliver health care to populations with limited access to care. Telemedicine has been tested in multiple clinical settings, demonstrating at least equivalency to in-person care and high levels of patient and health professional satisfaction. Teleoncology has been demonstrated to improve access to care and decrease health care costs. Teleconsultations may take place in a synchronous, asynchronous, or blended format. Examples of successful teleoncology applications include cancer telegenetics, bundling of cancer-related teleapplications, remote chemotherapy supervision, symptom management, survivorship care, palliative care, and approaches to increase access to cancer clinical trials. Telepathology is critical to cancer care and may be accomplished synchronously and asynchronously for both cytology and tissue diagnoses. Mobile applications support symptom management, lifestyle modification, and medication adherence as a tool for home-based care. Telemedicine can support the oncologist with access to interactive tele-education. Teleoncology practice should maintain in-person professional standards, including documentation integrated into the patient’s electronic health record. Telemedicine training is essential to facilitate rapport, maximize engagement, and conduct an accurate virtual exam. With the appropriate attachments, the only limitation to the virtual exam is palpation. The national telehealth resource centers can provide interested clinicians with the latest information on telemedicine reimbursement, parity, and practice. To experience the gains of teleoncology, appropriate training, education, as well as paying close attention to gaps, such as those inherent in the digital divide, are essential.
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              Strategy for the practice of digestive and oncological surgery during the Covid-19 epidemic ☆ ☆☆

              Summary The Covid-19 pandemic is changing the organization of healthcare and has a direct impact on digestive surgery. Healthcare priorities and circuits are being modified. Emergency surgery is still a priority. Functional surgery is to be deferred. Laparoscopic surgery must follow strict rules so as not to expose healthcare professionals (HCPs) to added risk. The question looms large in cancer surgery–go ahead or defer? There is probably an added risk due to the pandemic that must be balanced against the risk incurred by deferring surgery. For each type of cancer–colon, pancreas, oesogastric, hepatocellular carcinoma–morbidity and mortality rates are stated and compared with the oncological risk incurred by deferring surgery and/or the tumour doubling time. Strategies can be proposed based on this comparison. For colonic cancers T1-2, N0, it is advisable to defer surgery. For advanced colonic lesions, it seems judicious to undertake neoadjuvant chemotherapy and then wait. For rectal cancers T3-4 and/or N+, chemoradiotherapy is indicated, short radiotherapy must be discussed (followed by a waiting period) to reduce time of exposure in the hospital and to prevent infections. Most complex surgery with high morbidity and mortality–oesogastric, hepatic or pancreatic–is most often best deferred.

                Author and article information

                S. Karger AG (Allschwilerstrasse 10, P.O. Box · Postfach · Case postale, CH–4009, Basel, Switzerland · Schweiz · Suisse, Phone: +41 61 306 11 11, Fax: +41 61 306 12 34, )
                17 July 2020
                : 1-9
                aDepartment of Digestive Surgery, Rouen University Hospital, Rouen, France
                bUNIROUEN, UMR 1245 INSERM, Rouen University Hospital, Department of Genomic and Personalized Medicine in Cancer and Neurological Disorders, Normandie University, Rouen, France
                cDepartment of Digestive Oncology, Rouen University Hospital, Rouen, France
                dRadiotherapy Department, Centre de Lutte Contre le Cancer Henri-Bequerel, Rouen, France
                Author notes
                *Jean-Jacques Tuech, Department of Digestive Surgery, Hôpital Charles Nicolle, 1 rue de Germont, FR–76031 Rouen (France), jean-jacques.tuech@
                Copyright © 2020 by S. Karger AG, Basel

                This article is made available via the PMC Open Access Subset for unrestricted re-use and analyses in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic or until permissions are revoked in writing. Upon expiration of these permissions, PMC is granted a perpetual license to make this article available via PMC and Europe PMC, consistent with existing copyright protections.

                Page count
                Figures: 2, Tables: 1, References: 38, Pages: 9


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