August 10, 2020 by Carol Higgins
Miami Cancer Institute: Fighting Cancer, Keeping Patients Safe
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Miami Cancer Institute has remained fully operational ― using extreme caution to ensure safety while providing lifesaving treatments to patients.
Today, because cases have been on the rise again in South Florida, the Institute continues to be diligent to ensure safety. The Institute is fully staffed and all therapies are available.
“Because people with cancer are at higher risk for COVID-19, we quickly took extensive precautionary measures, oftentimes beyond CDC guidelines,” said Michael J. Zinner, M.D., CEO and executive medical director of Miami Cancer Institute. “While the country moves into a recovery phase, we want patients to know that if they did postpone care or evaluation, they can safely start or continue treatment knowing that the Institute is maintaining meticulous safety practices.”
Among the innovative measures the Institute has taken to combat the virus are ultraviolet light robots that zap germs and sophisticated computer programs that track COVID-19 exposure and diagnosis. A UV and HEPA filtration system that exceeds air quality standards for medical facilities and special sterilization procedures have been in place since the facility opened in 2017, showing the organization’s foresight.
To provide the best cancer care in a safe environment, customized safety measures include a multi-step COVID-19 screening process with rapid patient and employee testing and contact tracing when needed; no-touch registration/discharge/bill pay services and the continuation of policies that limit visitors and foot traffic within buildings; and complimentary COVID-19 testing for all patients before starting chemotherapy or radiation therapy. In addition, all patients, physicians and staff must wear masks that are provided to them.
Information gathered through the detailed screening process is entered into a Miami Cancer Institute-designed database and, through a sophisticated program, tested patients are followed at home. Patients report their temperatures and answer questions about symptoms twice a day. “A lot of institutions send these people home and then have no clue what is happening with them,” said Paul Lindeman, M.D., the Institute’s medical director of informatics, who engineered the program into the testing area. “But we can jump in immediately to assist patients.”
These safety enhancements are on top of the frequent deep cleaning and cleaning between each patient that already occurs. In addition, the reconfiguring of spaces that transpired to accommodate social distancing will stay in place.
During this period, in the spirit of “cancer cannot wait,” the Institute can again focus on surveillance for recurrence of cancer and detection of new cancers. For the foreseeable future, telemedicine visits will be interspersed with in-person visits. At Miami Cancer Institute telemedicine visits include those through the use of the Baptist Health Care On Demand App, where patients can virtually visit with cancer experts on their care team from the safety and comfort of home. While virtual and telemedicine visits are still available when practical, in-person visits are encouraged now for screenings and check-ups, blood work and imaging procedures and other follow-ups.
“It is important for patients to be vigilant with follow-up, because cancer caught in its earliest stages is most treatable,” said Michele Ryder, R.N., the Institute’s chief nursing officer and chief operating officer.