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Archive January 2021 XXII, No. 1

Colon Cancer Doesn't Wait for COVID-19

Scheduling colonoscopies during the pandemic requires clear communication, strategic case scheduling and strict safety protocols.

Danielle Bouchat-Friedman, Associate Editor

BIO

CLEAR COMMUNICATION
Frank Kim
CLEAR COMMUNICATION The physicians at the Center for Digestive Health & Nutrition installed acrylic intubation boxes for added protection.

Getting back up and running and returning to a sense of normalcy are phrases that have been thrown around since COVID-19 hit. As elective procedures such as colonoscopies began to ramp back up after last year's nationwide shutdown, high-volume GI centers had to take a long look at their practices and protocols in order to maintain efficiency and screening success while also making sure patients felt safe. The pandemic threw them a major curve ball, but their physicians and staff quickly pivoted in order to keep scheduling screenings that can save the lives of the more than 100,000 patients who are diagnosed with colon cancer each year.

Staying current

Before COVID-19, physicians at the Center for Digestive Health & Nutrition in Moon Township, Pa., performed approximately 7,500 colonoscopies each year. At the beginning of the pandemic, when elective procedures were put on hold and only emergent procedures were being performed, the facility saw an 80% to 90% reduction in its normal screening volume. "We had a horrible two-month dip, so we knew our numbers were going to be low last year," says Frank Kim, MD, a gastroenterology specialist at the center. "And it took some convincing to get patients to return to get the screenings they needed done."

Early on, Dr. Kim experimented with telehealth and was surprised by how much his patients enjoyed the experience. "The patient satisfaction surveys were at 98%," he says.

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