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Dr Melissa Johnson: COVID-19 Has Brought About Lasting Change to Medicine


Melissa L. Johnson, MD, associate director for lung cancer research at Sarah Cannon Research Institute and partner in Tennessee Oncology, speaks on changes necessitated by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and connecting virtually.

In May, The American Journal of Managed Care® spoke with Melissa L. Johnson, MD, associate director for lung cancer research at Sarah Cannon Research Institute and partner in Tennessee Oncology. Here she discusses changes instituted at Sarah Cannon made necessary by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, why she believes telemedicine may be here to stay, and the benefits of being able to connect virtually.


In the aftermath of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, what are some of the best practices you have instituted to ensure the safety and ongoing care of your patients, clinicians, and physicians?

Well, I think probably the very first thing that we did back in March, when we began to react to the COVID-19 pandemic was that everybody started wearing masks all the time. We continue to do so, although I took mine off for my interview, both in the office as well as in the clinic.

You know, I think there are a couple changes that we talked about already being lasting ones. One is that we have learned how to connect virtually over Zoom across the world. And I think that that ability will change the necessity for the amount of meetings that are happening. Just in the last 5 years, each year there have been more meetings that I have wanted to go to. And so I wonder if more of them will become virtual, like the ASCO 2020 in a couple weeks. And secondly, a friend of mine on Twitter said this is another genie that's not going back in the bottle, which is telemedicine visits. We now know how to connect with our patients, both receiving standard-of-care therapies as well as on clinical trials. Using the computer, just like you and I, it has eliminated a lot of travel. I can tell sick or not sick over the computer many times. Primary referring oncologists have been willing to do safety labs that otherwise protocol might have required a patient come all the way to Nashville to have performed atSara Cannon.

We have many patients who come from all over the country to participate in clinical research. And telemedicine has allowed patients not just in Nashville but everywhere to remain on study, to remain participating in clinical research trials. And I think that is a shared learning that we won't get rid of after the pandemic has quieted.

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