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In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with hematologist/oncologist Dr. Cheryl Mensah, we discuss sickle cell disease challenges and disparities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

MD Newsline:

What are the biggest challenges that hematologists are tasked with in the wake of COVID-19?

Dr. Cheryl Mensah:

“So the biggest challenge for hematologists during COVID-19 was the loss of the number of in-person patient care visits. I believe that there are limitations to telemedicine, especially for hematologists. Hematologists rely on laboratory medicine, patient examinations, and sometimes in-office treatments to care for their patients. During COVID-19, some changes affected the ability of hematologists to provide those services for those patients.

And so those were the biggest challenges that made it harder to take care of patients with sickle cell disease.”

 

MD Newsline:

Do you think sickle cell disease disparities have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Dr. Cheryl Mensah:

“I definitely think that COVID-19 had an impact on sickle cell disease disparities. Some patients were forced to move to other locations far away from their providers. Some patients were forced to find new providers, and many doctors had limited appointments for new patients during the pandemic. Also, patients were scared to go to the hospital and the emergency room and risk exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

And also, with regard to insurance, some patients lost their jobs and their ability to pay for their health insurance. And so all these different things affected the ability of patients to get health care from their doctors and made the gaps in care even wider.”

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Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.

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