The worldwide pandemic caused by the COVID-19 outbreak has led to an unprecedented burden on hospital structures, posing new challenges in terms of reshaping healthcare services. At the same time, the so-called 'lockdown' restrictions have decreased overall mobility, thereby challenging the traditional concept of clinical examination. Moreover, the need for security for both patients and healthcare personnel has posed a further limitation to face-to-face meeting. Telemedicine has provided a valuable solution for such issues, allowing the evaluation of oral and maxillofacial surgery patients through technological interfaces, restricting physical consultations to cases with high clinical priority, intercepting suspects, and maintaining contact with discharged patients. Thanks to the experience gained during the previous wave of infections, the purpose of this study was to present a reorganization of clinical services for oral and maxillofacial surgery in order to help cope with the latest COVID-19 resurgence. Using commonly available software for telecommunications and online meetings, the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department of the University Hospital of Udine has reshaped the organization of healthcare services, with telemedicine central to the continuity of assistance, while at the same time minimizing the risk of exposure for both patients and operators. Additionally, the high number of patients evaluated through telemedicine improved our ability to define signs and symptoms of diseases using informatic tools, thus allowing the introduction of the concept of 'telesemiology'. During our previous lockdown experience, between March and April 2020, 78 patients were evaluated using teleconsultation. All outpatient examinations were rescheduled and translated into a virtual platform, allowing each patient to undergo evaluation in the most appropriate setting. Special attention was paid to the follow-up of oncological patients. The rehabilitation team represented a crucial element in maintaining contact with more complex patients in this crucial time. This study was based on our previous lockdown experience - a situation that many will be facing again over the coming months. Our hope is that the organizational structure that our department applied during the previous wave of infections may offer other colleagues a solution to facing the current COVID-19 recrudescence.
Keywords: COVID-19; Facial care project; Organization model; Teleconsultation; Telemedicine.
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