We at Heart Valve Voice US are closely monitoring this situation on behalf of our patient community and, in this regard, have compiled a catalog of the various relevant guidances and recommendations emanating from Federal and State authorities, medical societies, and associations.
Patients deserve transparency and consistency when it comes to questions about their diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, what we have today is a patchwork of well-intentioned but vague and sometimes incompatible directives.
In fact, a surgeon or interventional cardiologist might need to navigate as many as 10 different advice documents to determine how to best care for an individual heart valve patient. How does this opaque process benefit the patient? Patient care could suffer in this environment.
The COVID-19 pandemic is posing serious and deadly consequences for heart valve patients. Many have co-existing conditions, such as COPD, diabetes, or hypertension that place them at especially high-risk.
We do not believe it is our place to substitute our judgement for that of the dedicated medical professionals who are finding their way through this unprecedented situation. Nevertheless, we call for transparency and consistency in how treatment decisions are being made and what constitutes the meaning of “elective.” Anything less is unfair to both patients and health care professionals and could be, quite literally, a matter of life and death.
Also, while difficult, we must begin to look ahead. When this crisis passes, how will we deal with the backlog of procedures? How will patients be prioritized? How will our healthcare system accommodate the increased volume of procedures that will be needed? How will access be expanded, especially in rural and underserved areas? Science continues to advance. New treatments continue to be researched and will be coming to market. Patients cannot wait for access to these treatments.
These are complicated questions, but the answers become more clear if we truly place the patient at the center of care.