A ‘robust’ Telehealth response by Provision Healthcare to coronavirus

Provision Healthcare is addressing the coronavirus pandemic by offering “robust” Telehealth services to keep its cancer patients communicating with their doctors.

“Cancer patients are in a tough spot when it comes to COVID-19, especially those who have recently been diagnosed and are wondering whether and how to move forward with treatment in the face of the virus,” Mike Sommi, executive vice president of Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville, stated in a recent e-mail.

“Many are elderly or undergoing chemotherapy, which makes them more vulnerable to the virus and more at risk if infected,” he added. “So, they wonder whether they should reach out to a physician, plan a course of treatment and begin their journey or simply let their cancer take a back seat until the pandemic subsides.

Recognizing this concern, Sommi stated, “We decided to offer robust Telehealth services to allow the patients to consult a physician, get timely answers to their questions and a timely assessment of their condition without leaving the safety of their home.

“This allows the patient to keep their cancer care on track while limiting exposure to the virus,” added Sommi, a former pastor of Two Rivers Church in Dixie Lee Junction.

With the benefit of a physician consultation, “The patient can better determine how to proceed, he stated.

“In some cases, treatment can be delayed and that may be the best course,” Sommi added. “However, in many cases treatment must proceed immediately and delay would be detrimental.

“To protect our patients who must proceed or continue with treatment during the pandemic, we have adopted a host of new procedures, ranging from increased sterilization to outdoor patient and employee screenings, strict limitations on the number of caregivers permitted in the facility and extensive reliance on Telehealth services for both consultations and follow-up visits to limit the number of people in the center.

For those who must commence or continue treatment, “The added precautions at the center provide a level of protection to ease their concerns and reduce the risk of exposure and infection during their daily visits,” Sommi stated.

Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville has been open throughout the pandemic.

“We have stayed open the entire time to consult with recently diagnosed patients and treat those that are in need of treatment,” he said. “Cancer doesn’t take a break for the virus, so neither can we.

“We have adopted a host of new processes and procedures consistent with (Centers for Disease Control) and Tennessee Department of Health guidance to aide those who recently received a diagnosis and protect both current patients, as well as our employees, providing their treatment.

“Again, we have increased routine sterilization throughout the facility,” Sommi stated. “We screen all patients and employees daily, and if any suspicious symptoms are noted, the individual is assessed by a nurse and, if necessary, sent for testing.

“The patients are screened outside of the building then wait in their vehicles to be summoned in at the precise time of their treatment to avoid having to linger in the center any longer than necessary,” he said. “A patient is only permitted to have one caregiver join them in the center, and all employees, patients and caregivers wear masks or face coverings while they are in the building.

“An additional benefit of Telehealth is that it limits the number of people that visit the facility thereby reducing the risk of exposure to the virus,” Sommi added. “Finally, in the absence of normal face-to-face interaction with our Care Team, we have adopted alternative measures to stay connected with our patients and provide comfort, encouragement and the sense of community that is vital to our patient care experience.”

Provision Healthcare, with the proton therapy center located at 6450 Provision Cares Way, started developing a comprehensive cancer center in Knoxville in 2005.

“It began with the development of an imaging center on the Dowell Springs campus off of Middlebrook Pike,” Sommi said. “This was followed by the development of two medical office buildings that are home to the Provision Radiation Therapy Center, which provides conventional radiation therapy, as well as Provision’s Radiopharmacy, wellness center and physical therapy clinic.

He added the campus also is home to East Tennessee’s largest women’s health center and the area’s largest medical oncology group, Tennessee Cancer Specialists.

“To establish the campus as a premier comprehensive cancer care destination, Provision CARES Proton Therapy Center was developed and began treating patients in January 2014.

“At the time it was the 13th proton center in the country, and the only center in Tennessee. It remains the only center in East Tennessee.”

For more about proton therapy, contact Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville at Knoxvilleproton.com or 865-290-1158.