Lessons From the Pandemic Must Carry Into the Future

Lessons From the Pandemic Must Carry Into the Future

Linda R. Duska, MD, MPH

Sep 03, 2020

For many of us, the necessity of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic has required us to get comfortable, fast, with technology. We’re doing telehealth visits with patients, holding team meetings via web conference, attending virtual scientific conferences, video-calling our family members, and checking in with friends on social media. While we long for a future in which we can safely meet face to face and within arm’s length, it’s also an incredible reminder of how very connected we are even across long distances.

Our professional society is also leveraging technology to support members in our continuing mission to ensure that every patient with cancer can receive the highest quality care. Some of these programs are new, a direct result of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. The ASCO20 Virtual Scientific Program saw record attendance and participation, and many of us also logged in to sessions in the ASCO20 Virtual Education Program, which took place in August. To support knowledge-sharing across geographic borders, ASCO has organized a series of webinars on COVID-19 for the global cancer community (p. 32).

There are lessons learned here that will be valuable even when the pandemic ends. Telemedicine is gaining broad acceptance by providers and patients—and not just out of necessity. Virtual visits can alleviate the financial and time burden of cancer on patients, decreasing their direct out-of-pocket costs (transportation, parking, childcare) and indirect costs (time off work). Post-COVID, we need to make sure that insurance continues to pay for telehealth.

As we consider our global community, offering robust virtual platforms for conference participation beyond the pandemic can level the playing field for oncology providers who would otherwise be unable to attend an in-person meeting, whether due to the prohibitive cost of travel or unavoidable clinic responsibilities. This represents a unique opportunity to be truly inclusive, especially of our colleagues practicing in low-resource areas.

Similarly, many of ASCO’s technology-driven programs predate COVID-19 and will endure beyond it, positioning the organization and its members at the front of the curve in new methods of research, education, and collaboration.

Our cover story focuses on CancerLinQ, ASCO’s big-data platform that collects and analyzes millions of de-identified patient records, with the goal of learning from every patient—not just the highly selected 3% who participate in clinical trials. Research insights from CancerLinQ are beginning to inform our practice; 11 abstracts using CancerLinQ data were presented at the ASCO20 Virtual Scientific Meeting.

Cancer.Net, ASCO’s patient-information website, recently relaunched its mobile app with valuable new features. The app is a great resource for patients to manage their cancer care information: they can create a comprehensive health report, track symptoms, organize appointments, record questions and notes from provider visits, and easily access the oncologist-vetted information on Cancer.Net.

And while life has changed in many ways, the cycle of training and career growth continues. If you are an early-career physician applying for your first job, Dr. Sagar Lonial shares six tips on giving a great job talk—useful if you’re interviewing in person or doing a virtual interview trail. Dr. Inas Abuali offers encouragement and advice on succeeding in the outpatient oncology clinic. Know that we wish you tons of success in these exciting periods in your career!

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