Out of the confusion of the COVID-19 pandemic have come sweeping responses, re-imagined approaches to care, and research advances, with questions still to be answered and the lasting effects still to be seen. Representatives from the COSM subspecialty societies reviewed these changes during a Triological Society session at the Combined Otolaryngology Spring Meetings in April.
Explore This IssueJuly 2021
In New York, by early May of 2020, about 40% of city residents already knew someone who had contracted COVID-19, and about 20% knew someone who had died from the disease. Personal protective equipment and staffing were facing critical shortages.
“We really were in a crisis mode and trying to understand from the otolaryngology perspective how we could best handle this,” said Scott Rickert, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at New York University Grossman School of Medicine in New York City. He discussed the response to the pandemic from the perspective of the American Broncho-Esophagological Association and American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngology.
Since then, the “slow build” back to a new normal has been marked by support from medical societies, creating processes for patient and clinician safety and overcoming challenges in delayed care due to COVID-19 concerns, he said. Guidelines, resources, and seminars from societies have been helpful, and changes in filtration, scheduling, operating room procedures, and testing and screening have all been part of the response.
Advantages in the Field
Advantages—potentially long-lasting ones—have spun out of the response, Dr. Rickert said. They include better use of technology with telemedicine and collaborating in patient care, a heightened “culture of safety,” outreach to rebuild practices, and learning virtually across institutions. “I think there were a lot of advantages despite all the PTSD we may feel from the COVID year we’ve had,” he said.
Others had similar accounts of advancements that have sprung out of the pandemic. Theda Kontis, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in Baltimore who presented the perspective of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, said that patient volume actually increased during the pandemic as people decided they needed a change in their appearance because of Zoom meetings and had more disposable income because of canceled vacations and other changes in spending.
“What we like is that more virtual visits have made us very efficient with our use of time,” Dr. Kontis said. The need for patients to feel safe meant no double booking and no patients in the waiting room, making for a smoother patient experience.
She added that masking for physicians—or for herself, at least—is probably here to stay. “I haven’t been sick for a year,” she said. “So, I think once the pandemic is over, I’m going to be wearing masks when I see my patients.”