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Subspecialties COVID-19, Other, Practice Management

Cancer Never Stops – and Neither Do We

The Ocular Oncology Service at Wills Eye never stopped working during the COVID-19 pandemic – instead of putting the brakes on patient care, we flipped the switch and nearly overnight converted to a telehealth system. Our cancer patients needed us, so we balanced patient care with clinician and staff safety. At first it seemed daunting to decide on how to evaluate an ocular oncology patient under these novel circumstances but, in the end, we discovered new ways to implement care without requiring the doctor to be present.

In fact, we have been able to deliver care with a skeleton crew of two office staff at a remote setting, taking patients in one by one, with family waiting in the car, and turning over care every 15-20 minutes, including all imaging, teleconferencing with the doctor and family, and a personally dictated letter to the referring physicians. It might sound impossible, but with an already solid base in ophthalmic imaging, and with outstanding photographers and technicians, we set up imaging “camps” to keep patients away from the downtown Philadelphia virus “hotspot.”

If I had to select five steps that we specifically focused on during this overwhelming transition, I would include: i) safety in the clinic, ii) constructing telehealth confidence for eye cancer, iii) COVID-19 testing on patients before surgery, iv) maintaining employee and patient satisfaction, and, the most important one, v) establishing imaging centers in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

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About the Author

Carol Shields

Carol Shields is Chief of the Ocular Oncology Service at Wills Eye Hospital and Professor of Ophthalmology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, USA

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