COVID, Colorectal Cancer, and Impact on the Patient Community
Komodo Health Introduces “For the Health of It,” a Series Featuring Expert Perspectives and Commentary on Health Issues
The U.S. healthcare system is at a crossroads. Amid a global pandemic, with an increasing need to ensure access to quality care, and an ever-growing opportunity for health data to improve value and patient outcomes, our care model is evolving rapidly. At Komodo Health, our goal is to make the most of health data to drive relentlessly toward a deeper understanding of the patient journey and, ultimately, reduce the burden of disease.
With so many issues to explore, we’re excited to introduce For the Health of It, a new series from Komodo Health featuring expert insights and analysis of some of the most important issues impacting healthcare today.
Hosted by Komodo’s Chief Marketing Officer, Bill Evans, For the Health of It will bring together scientists, industry thought leaders, medical luminaries, and public health experts to discuss and debate a range of topics, from access to care to the use of data in improving health outcomes.
Our premier episode features Anjee Davis, president of the non-profit Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC). Check out Part 1 of the conversation between Bill and Anjee, in which they discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer, and the cancer community more broadly.
Highlights from the conversation between Bill and Anjee follow:
Bill Evans: We're excited to have our first guest, Angelica Davis, President of Fight CRC, to talk about the impact that COVID-19 has had on the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer.
Anjee Davis: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate being the first guest on your new show. Fight Colorectal Cancer is the leading advocacy organization focused on pushing health-care policy, helping educate patients, raising awareness and funding, and supporting research. We're really excited about our partnership with Komodo because, ultimately, we want to be able to focus our efforts and provide the highest-quality and best use of information for our patients.
Bill: So, during the height of the pandemic, especially in the spring, there was a major drop-off in colorectal screenings. I believe by mid-April, the number had dropped in terms of colonoscopies and biopsies by nearly 90 percent. Can you talk a little bit about why there was such a steep drop-off earlier this year?
Anjee: 2020 has been a challenging year. We could have never expected the global pandemic to have impacted screening as it did.
But March was Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. We were in sort of the peak of raising awareness around colorectal cancer screening. When COVID hit, elective procedures were halted, and colorectal cancer screening fell under the list of elective procedures. I think that we could have never foreseen the impact of halting screening for cancer, specifically colorectal cancer, and so now we see a tremendous backlog of screenings and a healthcare community that's trying to keep up with both a pandemic and the need to maintain healthcare.
Bill: I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about the impact it had on the patient community. What are the downstream effects and why is this so concerning?
Anjee: In April, we partnered with Komodo to really answer that question and I think we were really concerned as the pandemic progressed and we continued to be in a lockdown. We really deal with a tremendous amount of immunocompromised families, caregivers, and children, and so we surveyed over 200 patients to see, “How are you feeling and what are you going through?”
Over 70 percent of those had anxiety about rescheduling regular appointments with their oncologists. Surgical procedures were delayed. Questions around clinical trials, whether they were open or not open, were very concerning for our Stage Four colorectal cancer patients. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy, already very difficult for patients, were upended by having to work with nurse navigators within their healthcare team to see if they could do those via telehealth.
When do I go in? Should I be afraid of the impact of COVID and my vulnerability to COVID? What can I do to make sure that I'm taking the best care of myself? And I think there was a lot of anxiety within our community due to all the variables that were introduced due to COVID.
Bill: There was a rebound in procedures in April, but we're now in the midst of a second wave. What are you seeing that might be different this time around, either from lessons learned from the last slowdown in testing or just differences that have occurred because of where we are in the year?
Anjee: Our healthcare teams are getting smarter about how to triage patients. They're able to prepare for the second wave in a way that they weren't able to in the first wave.
I think patients are starting to get comfortable with the idea of wearing a mask, sanitization, and making sure that they are scheduling and proactively scheduling appointments, working with new opportunities around telehealth, and making sure that those [virtual options] are reimbursable.
You’re going to hear a lot from the advocacy community to not delay care, to not be afraid, to reduce that anxiety that patients have been feeling since March.
Bill: Well, Anjee, thanks so much for joining us today. It was great to hear your wisdom and your insights about what's going on in your community. To learn more about Fight CRC, you can visit the website at fightcolorectalcancer.org. See you next time.
Part 2 coming on February 17.