Interview with Geoffrey Rose, M.D., president of Sanger Heart and Vascular Institute with Atrium Health, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a board member with the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE). He explains the impact of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) on the cardiovascular service line and cardiac imaging. He said the virus has led to use of computed tomography (CT) not only as the frontline cardiovascular imaging modality to evaluate chest pain, but also for COVID-19 pneumonia imaging.
Rose said cardiac ultrasound is still used, but requires full personal protective equipment (PPE) and often abbreviated exams because of the close proximity of the sonographer and patient when performing echocardiograms. This has given rise to using dedicated point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) systems to answer specific clinical questions quickly. Smart-phone based POCUS systems that use an app and a transducer plugged into the phone enable basic echo exams or evaluation of other parts of the anatomy quickly without the need to immediately sterilize an entire cart-based ultrasound system. These small systems also can be completely enclosed inside a transducer sheath and the phone and single transducer are much easier and faster to wipe down. He said the quality of the exams are not as good as fully enabled echocardiography systems, but it allows for quick assessments of ejection fractions and to triage if the patient needs more advanced imaging if the basic questions cannot be answered.
Since hospitals have shut down now for about two months, postponing normal checkups, and elective exams and procedures, Rose said doctors still need to visit with patients who have chronic conditions. Sanger and Atrium Heath modified its ambulatory electronic medical record (EMR) and is using video conferencing to perform virtual appointments now for the majority of these patients. He said telemedicine was not widely used before COVID-19 in his hospital system, but the pandemic will likely alter the care model for the future, with more telemedicine visits being used even after epidemic is over. He said use of POCUS and CT as frontline cardiac imaging modalities will also likely remain in place after the pandemic because of the efficiencies in care these technologies offer.
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