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The Long-Term Impact of COVID-19 on GI Practice

Andrew Chan, MD, MPH
Professor, Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Vice chair, Education, Gastroenterology
Chief, Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit
Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston, MA

I think we have understood what a once in a lifetime event COVID-19 has been for us, and that’s really required us to rethink how we deliver gastrointestinal care. Of course, we’ve had to put aside some of those clinical efforts that we’ve been so accustomed to providing. These include things like screening colonoscopies, and that has been unfortunate in that we need to catch up with those screening exams because, although they might not have seemed as urgent in lieu of this pandemic, ultimately, the risk of dying of colorectal cancer in a general population is real, and I think we have to do what we can to prevent it. So we’ll hopefully be in a position to catch up with those screening exams that didn’t happen as we diverted our attention to COVID-19. But also we should think about newer models of delivering care that will be able to address the continued need for COVID-19 care, alongside the important need for chronic disease prevention, which we do as gastroenterologists.

We have seen that telemedicine has and will hopefully continue to open up access for a lot of people to gastrointestinal care. But I think we also need to be aware that there are certain things that obviously patients need to have done, that require a face-to-face visit, so we should continue to offer those in a way that’s safe for patients in the setting of COVID-19.

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