Shah P, et al. BJUI Compass 2020 - Review.
OBJECTIVES: To determine the usefulness of social media for rapid communication with experts to discuss strategies for prioritization and safety of deferred treatment for urologic malignancies during COVID-19 pandemic, and to determine whether the discourse and recommendations made through discussions on social media (Twitter) were consistent with the current peer-reviewed literature regarding the safety of delayed treatment.
METHODS: We reviewed and compiled the responses to our questions on Twitter regarding the management and safety of deferred treatment in the setting of COVID-19 related constraints on non-urgent care. We chronicled the guidance published on this subject by various health authorities and professional organizations. Further, we analyzed peerreviewed literature on the safety of deferred treatment (surgery or systemic therapy) to make made evidence-based recommendations.
RESULTS: Due to the rapidly changing information about epidemiology and infectious characteristics of COVID-19, the health authorities and professional societies guidance required frequent revisions which by design take days or weeks to produce. Several active discussions on Twitter provided real-time updates on the changing landscape of the restrictions being placed on non-urgent care. For separate discussion threads on prostate cancer and bladder cancer, dozens of specialists with expertise in treating urologic cancers could be engaged in providing their expert opinions as well as share evidence to support their recommendations. Our analysis of published studies addressing the safety and extent to which delayed cancer care does not compromise oncological outcome revealed that most prostate cancer care and certain aspects of the bladder and kidney cancer care can be safely deferred for 2-6 months. Urothelial bladder cancer and advanced kidney cancer require a higher priority for timely surgical care. We did not find evidence to support the idea of using nonsurgical therapies, such as hormone therapy for prostate cancer or chemotherapy for bladder cancer for safer deferment of previously planned surgery. We noted that the comments and recommendations made by the participants in the Twitter discussions were generally consistent with our evidence-based recommendations for safely postponing cancer care for certain types of urologic cancers.
CONCLUSION: The use of social media platforms, such as Twitter, where the comments and recommendations are subject to review and critique by other specialists is not only feasible but quite useful in addressing the situations requiring urgent resolution, often supported by published evidence. In circumstances such as natural disasters, this may be a preferable approach than the traditional expert panels due to its ability to harness the collective intellect to available experts to provide
responses and solutions in real-time. These real-time communications via Twitter provided sound guidance which was readily available to the public and participants, and was generally in concordance with the peerreviewed data on safety of deferred treatment.