COVID-19 has been spreading worldwide. In this brief article, readers will find thoughts and useful links about a) the possible contribution of medical physicists to coronavirus diagnosis and containment and b) the safety measures that should be taken by medical physicists to protect patients and staff.
Medical physicists can be contributing to coronavirus efficient and effective diagnosis and containment by
- Cooperating with radiologists to develop imaging acquisition protocols for differential diagnosis of COVID-19. Useful link: https://pubs.rsna.org/2019-ncov
- Cooperating with radiologists to develop evidence-based quality assurance programs for teleradiology. Useful link: https://www.acr.org/-/media/ACR/Files/Legal-and-Business-Practices/ACR_White_Paper_on_Teleradiology_Practice1.pdf
- Working with radiation oncologists to develop a policy for treating patients who are infected with COVID-19 https://www.astro.org/Daily-Practice/COVID-19-Recommendations-and-Information/COVID-19-FAQs#19
- Cooperating with IT departments to create infrastructures for remote medical physics activities (treatment planning, dosimetry, quality control, education and training, research etc.). This will allow medical physicists and other personnel to work partly from home and reduce person-to-person contact within the healthcare facilities.
This is just an indicative list. The contribution of each medical physicist depends on his/her expertise and local requirements.
Medical physics departments should have guidelines in place to ensure the safety of patients and staff. Radioisotope therapy patients ‘at risk’ should be seen and treated in a separate room. Dosimeters, radiation protection garments (patient shielding, aprons etc.), image viewing stations, computer keyboards and mice need to be disinfected regularly. Detailed information about ways to ensure the safety of patients and personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found at https://www.aapm.org/COVID19/default.asp