A virtual-hybrid approach to launching a cardio-oncology clinic during a pandemic


Background: As cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in cancer survivors, the new subspecialty of Cardio-Oncology has emerged to address prevention, monitoring, and management of cardiovascular toxicities to cancer therapies. During the coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, we developed a Virtual-Hybrid Approach to build a de novo Cardio-Oncology Clinic.

Methods: We conceptualized a Virtual-Hybrid Approach including three arms: information seeking in locations with existing Cardio-Oncology clinics, information gathering at the location for a new clinic, and information sharing to report clinic-building outcomes. A retrospective review of outcomes included collection and synthesis of data from our first 3 months (at pandemic peak) on types of appointments, cancers, drugs, and cardiotoxicities. Data were presented using descriptive statistics.

Results: A de-novo Cardio-Oncology clinic was developed structured from the ground up to integrate virtual and in-person care in a hybrid and innovative model, using the three arms of the Virtual-Hybrid Approach. First, we garnered in-person and virtual preparation through hands-on experiences, training, and discussions in existing Cardio-Oncology Clinics and conferences. Next, we gleaned information through virtual inquiry and niche-building. With partners throughout the institution, a virtual referral process was established for outpatient referrals and inpatient e-consult referrals to actualize a hybrid care spectrum for our patients administered by a multidisciplinary hybrid care team of clinicians, ancillary support staff, and clinical pharmacists. Among the multi-subspecialty clinic sessions, approximately 50% were in Cardio-Oncology, 20% in Preventive Cardiology, and 30% in General Cardiology. In the hybrid model, the Heart & Vascular Center had started to re-open, allowing for 65% of our visits to be in person. In additional analyses, the most frequent cardiovascular diagnosis was cardiomyopathy (34%), the most common cancer drug leading to referral was trastuzumab (29%), and the most prevalent cancer type was breast cancer (42%).

Conclusion: This Virtual-Hybrid Approach and retrospective review provides guidance and information regarding initiating a brand-new Cardio-Oncology Clinic during the pandemic for cancer patients/survivors. This report also furnishes virtual resources for patients, virtual tools for oncologists, cardiologists, and administrators tasked with starting new clinics during the pandemic, and innovative future directions for this digital pandemic to post-pandemic era.