A plan for operationalizing cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic was developed by the MD Anderson Cancer Network, a program of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and implemented across its network of US-based and international partner institutions.1 The approach was described in a paper published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing.2

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the continuity of cancer care has been dramatic and multifarious, affecting appointment scheduling, the settings of cancer care delivery, and increasing the risk of treatment interruption and delays in treatment initiation.

In this context, it was recognized that an established, collaborative, multisystem cancer network, such as the MD Cancer Network, was well suited to addressing many of these challenges by standardizing practice, supporting research protocols, and facilitating care continuity.

“This includes the sharing of policies, procedures, educational materials, and, where appropriate, research protocols that allow for the seamless integration of best practices for cancer care delivery and quality to be extended from the MD Anderson Cancer Center campuses in Houston, Texas, to national and international providers,” the authors commented.


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For instance, best practices were developed to screen for COVID-19 and minimize risk of infection transmission at participating institutions, such as limiting the number of caregivers allowed in the hospitals and clinics. In addition, procedures were outlined for supporting enrollment and treatment of patients in cancer clinical trial settings, and coordinating care transfer, when needed.3

“Nurses are integral to this process, integrating administrative and clinical expertise to evaluate, synthesize, and make recommendations about best practices and quality assessment,” the authors explained.

In their concluding remarks, the authors noted that “nurses should consider how best practices identified during COVID-19 at local and systems levels can support practice changes following the pandemic and support a flexible and resilient system moving forward.”

References

1. University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. MD Anderson Cancer Network® [news release]. Accessed August 20, 2020. https://www.mdanderson.org/about-md-anderson/our-locations/md-anderson-cancer-network.html

2. Johnston PA, Kitchens JL, LaBree K, et al. COVID-19 and oncology: operationalizing best practices across collaborative health systems. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2020;24(4):444-447. doi:10.1188/20.CJON.444-447.

3. Demarco C. Despite COVID-19 pandemic, MD Anderson Cancer Network enables patient to continue clinical trial [news release]. University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; April 24, 2020. Accessed August 20, 2020. https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/md-anderson-cancer-network-baptist-md-anderson-is-helping-me-continue-my-clinical-trial-during-coronavirus-covid19-pandemic.h00-159381156.html