COVID-19 is causing substantial disruptions to physicians’ experience in treating solid tumours and haematological malignancies. The objective of this study is to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the diagnosis and treatment of Australian cancer patients. This study incorporates physicians’ adaptation to the challenges they face.
In May 2020, n=32 medical oncologists and n=24 medical haematologists completed an online survey, providing their perceptual insights which included both quantitative and qualitative responses.
75% of medical oncologists and 64% of haematologists anticipate a delay in diagnosing and testing cancer patients. 75% of physicians are advising their patients to postpone scheduled appointments, mainly routine follow-ups. ~90% of physicians are increasing their use of tele-consultations. Physicians are notably more open in using digital channels to access remote patients and to minimise the risk of infection. Workplace policies are being updated to keep up with the adaptions to clinical practice.
75% of physicians anticipate a reduction in their prescribing of certain anti-cancer drugs mainly due to potential impact on patient’s immunosuppression. 24% of oncologists are likely to increase the use of immunotherapies as they are deemed to be safer and less toxic. 44% of haematologists anticipate higher use of oral drugs due to convenience for the patients. 76% of haematologists are likely to postpone initiating new therapy, either by keeping their patients on watch and wait or delaying the switch to another therapy.
The study results show that COVID-19 is having a significant impact on the management of cancer patients in Australia. With an uptake in use of tele-consultations and digital channels, cancer patients are diagnosed, tested and treated in new ways enabling physicians to combat the COVID-19 challenges.