MONDAY, June 1, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Despite adoption of enhanced safety measures, radiation oncologists have seen a drop in patient volumes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the results of a survey released May 20 by the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).

ASTRO conducted an online survey of radiation oncologists across the United States to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their clinics. The analysis included 222 physician leaders of radiation oncology practices (62 percent private practice/community-based), with responses collected April 16 to 30, 2020.

The researchers found that more than two-thirds of practices (69 percent) experienced shortages of personal protective equipment. In response to the pandemic, the vast majority of clinics (99 percent) have staff routinely wearing masks; 98 percent screen patients at the door and have adopted social distancing measures; 95 percent have increased clinic sterilization and cleaning; and 91 percent screen staff before each shift. The vast majority of practices (89 percent) now offer telemedicine for patient visits. However, patient volume decreased substantially following the COVID-19 outbreak, with 55 percent reporting seeing 61 to 80 percent of their typical patient volume. Forty-three percent of respondents reported revenue has decreased by 21 to 30 percent, while 12 percent reported a revenue decrease of more than 51 percent.

“Although COVID-19 has presented us with unprecedented challenges and forced us to think anew, our goals as radiation oncologists remain unaltered,” Theodore L. DeWeese, M.D., chair of the ASTRO board, said in a statement. “We stand resilient and ready to care for our patients, today and always.”

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