ASCO Provides Guidance for Resuming Cancer Care During Pandemic

ASCO’s special report summarizes a wide range of policies and practices developed by cancer facilities, as well as guidance provided by government agencies and other medical societies.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recently released detailed guidance for oncology practices on immediate and short-term steps that could be taken to help protect the safety of patients and health care staff prior to resuming more routine care operations during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The 24-page ASCO Special Report: A Guide to Cancer Care Delivery During the COVID-19 Pandemic, is accessible through the organization’s website.

The COVID-19 pandemic has required oncology practices in communities across the United States to make operational changes to protect the safety of patients and staff, adjust to resource shortages, and comply with national and state restrictions on elective procedures. Now that pandemic-related restrictions are beginning to ease, many oncology practices are thinking about how they can safely restore patient access to diagnostics, treatments, and other critical cancer care services.

“As oncologists, we want nothing more than to provide the highest quality cancer care to each and every patient. The decision to dial-back operations during the pandemic has not been an easy one for any oncology practice or cancer care provider,” said ASCO President Howard A. “Skip” Burris III, MD, FACP, FASCO, in a prepared statement. “While the move to resume normal operations will be slow and steady, we hope this report gives oncology practices the guidance they need to determine when and how to return to a ‘new normal’ as the impact of the pandemic begins to ease.”

ASCO’s special report summarizes a wide range of policies and practices developed by cancer facilities, as well as guidance provided by government agencies and other medical societies. They include:

  • Best practices for triaging or screening patients before appointments to reduce infection risk.
  • Guidance for providing cancer care to patients who are COVID-19-positive or under investigation for the virus.
  • Considerations for communicating with staff and patients about new protocols to protect patient health and safety.
  • Suggested policies and protocols for limiting infection spread by health care personnel through screening, testing, modified sick leave and work-from-home policies, and other measures.
  • Guidance for establishing physical distancing policies in clinical, administrative, and nonpatient care areas of cancer facilities.

The ASCO guidance also addresses:

  • Best practices for prioritizing, scheduling, and billing for telemedicine visits.
  • Resources to inform when and how to reestablish cancer screenings and other critical cancer care, including medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgery, and ancillary services.

The special report was developed by ASCO expert volunteers, who work in diverse practice settings, and is not intended to provide recommendations for care of individual patients. ASCO also is encouraging consideration of internal cancer center and practice policies; state, medical board, and municipality regulations; and other pertinent guidance to determine if and how practices can safely resume services.

A prelude to ASCO’s Road to Recovery initiative, which was announced April 23, 2020, this special report focuses on immediate and short-term steps that individual practices should consider for improving the safety of clinical cancer care during this pandemic. The ASCO Road to Recovery, which is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2020, is expected to lay out long-term policy and practice changes necessary to fully recover and improve the resiliency of the cancer care delivery system in a post-COVID-19 landscape.

Both initiatives are part of ASCO’s ongoing efforts to provide timely information and resources to the cancer community on the rapidly evolving COVID-19 public health crisis.

REFERENCE

Special Report Provides Guidance to Oncology Practices on Resuming Cancer Care During COVID-19 Pandemic [news release]. Alexandria, VA; May 19, 2020: ASCO website. https://www.asco.org/about-asco/press-center/news-releases/special-report-provides-guidance-oncology-practices-resuming Accessed May 27, 2020.