ANZ J Surg. 2021 Jun 29. doi: 10.1111/ans.17057. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has had widespread impacts on health services, particularly regarding the provision of urgent elective surgical services. It has influenced the evaluation of surgical patients, patient willingness to consult with medical services, and the ability to provide timely care to these patients. The aim of this study is to assesses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the time to definitive management for head and neck cancer in a regional setting.
METHODS: A retrospective review was performed through the University Hospital Geelong Head and Neck Unit records and electronic medical records. Ethics approval for quality assurance was attained. The primary outcome was time from first clinic appointment to commencement of definitive management. Statistical analysis was performed using Prism (version 8.0, GraphPad).
RESULTS: A total of 127 number of patients were identified, 64 in the pre-COVID and 63 in the post COVID period. In the post-COVID period, more patients (14.3%) had their first clinic appointment with telehealth compared to the pre-COVID period (1.6%). There was also no significant difference in time from referral to first clinic appointment or time from first clinic appointment to date of definitive treatment decision or MDM. There was no significant difference in definitive treatment modality between groups.
CONCLUSION: Despite increased adoption of telemedicine and increased public health considerations, there was no increase in time to definitive treatment from the time of referral to a regional head and neck cancer service.