In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with pulmonary and critical care physician Dr. Jamie Rutland, we discuss asthma management challenges and disparities in the wake of COVID-19.
What are the biggest challenges that pulmonologists and other physicians treating asthma are tasked with in the wake of COVID-19?
Dr. Jamie Rutland:
“The biggest issue that pulmonologists are tasked with in the wake of COVID-19 is being able to differentiate asthma exacerbation from a potential COVID-19 presentation. Right? You’ve gotta be able to sift through that. You’ve got to be able to use labs, use the clinical history, to be able to have an understanding of what is SARS-CoV-2 infection and potentially COVID-19 and what is severe asthma and an asthma exacerbation. That’s one.
Two is you have to still be able to provide care for your patients that have chronic asthma that are afraid to come to the doctor because they’re afraid of being exposed to SARS-CoV-2. So you’re going to have to offer telemetry visits. You’re going to have to become tech-savvy. If that’s not your forte, as a more experienced physician, you gotta be able to offer that to patients.
Three, you want to make sure that patients are picking up their medicine and that they are taking their medicine as they’re supposed to. So you might have to call the pharmacy and just make certain that the patient is.
Four, you gotta follow your asthma patients and figure out who needs what and how they’re doing. You know who your severe asthmatics are. So you may want to give them a call and say, ‘Hey, listen, Candy. You were in my office every month for prednisone. You haven’t been here for seven months. What’s going on? How are you doing?’ Right?
So you have to be able to have this understanding of what’s going on in your asthma patient’s life. So that way your patient doesn’t develop severe asthma or worsening asthma and end up in the hospital and possibly on a ventilator all because their asthma was mismanaged because of their fear of presenting to healthcare.”
Do you think asthma disparities have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Dr. Jamie Rutland:
“I get a lot of those questions right now with COVID. COVID vaccine and COVID-19–it has nothing to do with the color of our skin. It has everything to do with the access to healthcare and the lack of treatment as we move forward in life…”
“…What the pandemic has done is it’s raised the eyebrows, and it has allowed people to become interested. So I actually think it has led to more access [with] people asking more questions. ‘What do I need to do?’ People are lending their ear in, [and] that I appreciate. That curiosity is great because it’s going to lead to better healthcare outcomes overall.”
Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.