The conversation continues from the AGA Corporate Roundtable Virtual Meeting held on May 13, 2020. Read AGA leadership’s comments on the questions from the audience.

How can pharmaceutical companies best support your efforts and clinical GI efforts/needs?

Many patients continue to face difficulties with affordability of needed medications. Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, continued support with samples and payment assistance programs is critical to clinicians’ ability to care for these patients.

What is the best way pharmaceutical companies can interact with local gastroenterologists (commercial or medical affairs)?

Most interactions will be virtual for the foreseeable future. Offices should be able to contact sales personnel and medical affairs liaisons as needed. Some physicians may be interested in online educational opportunities but appetite for this may be limited by numerous offerings from competing sources.

Despite all the limitations, is there any talk of how clinical trials can proceed in this time?

The current challenges for clinical trials are the restricted access to clinics and the reluctance of patients to come to medical facilities. Both of those are likely to improve soon. Clinics are beginning to increase volumes with social distancing and sometimes testing. More people are beginning to venture out. Some treatment trials have been continuing. At this point, it is difficult to predict the trajectory.

In the near future “New Normal”, please provide your recommendations on how medical staff in pharmaceutical companies could continue dialogue with the GI community? What do you prefer that they do to help gastroenterologists stay current on the latest scientific data in GI, in other related areas?

Gastroenterologists are now a lot more likely to employ electronic methods to contact colleagues, patients and families. For companies, it is likely to be more efficient and less expensive to communicate virtually and the quality of the interaction can be very good. Gastroenterologists are also hungry for new knowledge especially if they have had to cut back their time in the clinic or endoscopy unit. Now would be a good time to offer educational content to gastroenterologists. This is especially true for trainees.

Looking into the future, are there any silver linings or best practices that can be carried forward from now into new ways of working with gastroenterologists and patients (e.g. telemedicine, etc.)?

Telemedicine (video visits) is likely here to stay. Although, some temporary flexibilities, like use of non-telehealth platforms such as FaceTime and Skype, may not be made permanent after the government declares an end to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Practices should be prepared to implement a HIPAA compliant telehealth platform now so they can continue to use this important tool as part of the new normal.

Telephone E/M will continue to play an important role. Connectivity issues can happen anytime and some patients just don’t like video platforms. Delivering E/M over the phone is a low tech solution that practices can continue to use when they can’t conduct a video visit.

In-person visits/procedures will look different. Hospitals, ASCs and physician offices may want to consider keeping some practices they adopted to meet state and federal reopening guidelines even after the COVID-19 pandemic, such as diagnostic testing protocols, personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements and scheduling plans, to minimize risk to their staff and to patients who come to office.