March 12, 2020, is frozen in time on my desk. The perpetual calendar, a branded tchotchke from some long-ago Radiology Business Management Association meeting, reminds me daily of how life turns on a dime. That day, Sandy Thomas, the global managing partner of Reed Smith, sent out an email saying that effective immediately we would all be working remotely. My first thought was, "Is this really necessary?"
An editorial by Michael J. Tuite of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine in the journal Radiology this week points to the arc of realization that led to the early adoption of COVID-19 protocols in radiology practices. In those early days, the media was still focused on case numbers in other parts of the world.
Dr. Tuite notes that by the end of January and early February 2020, articles began to appear in radiology-specific scientific literature describing the chest radiograph and CT findings of COVID-19 pneumonia.
The journal's Scientific Expert Panel Review was first published online on March 16, 2020. That article contained many of the foundational recommendations that shaped the work of radiology departments during the pandemic, ranging from training all radiology employees on infection control protocols and using personal protective equipment (PPE), to following standardized hospital protocols for decontaminating imaging rooms.
Some of the recommendations adopted early by radiology practices endure: 1) screening patients for COVID-19 at the radiology front desk; 2) providing training for department employees in COVID-19 infection control; 3) centralization of PPE supplies; 4) implementing standard operating procedures for patients with known or suspected COVID-19; 5) dedicating imaging equipment only for patients with COVID-19 and performing bedside portable imaging when possible; and 6) using standardized protocols for decontamination of rooms.
As we return to our offices, schools, and the routines of our pre-COVID lives, there will be ubiquitous reminders of how the world has changed since March 2020. Masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing will continue to have a presence as we look at the start of year three of this pandemic. Small things can have a major impact on public health.