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WVU leader in lung, sleep issues explains new guidelines for clinics during COVID-19 pandemic

smiling man in suit and tie stands outside under green trees, steps in background

Dr. Sunil Sharma stands outside of Health Sciences Center on the WVU Morgantown Campus. (WVU Photo)

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Patients with lung issues or sleep conditions can breathe easier and sleep better during the COVID-19 pandemic as they can return to clinics where treatment is available. Dr. Sunil Sharma, section chief for West Virginia University School of Medicine Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine and a group leader in the American Thoracic Society international task force, is participating in national webinars to raise awareness for new guidelines for patients.

Quotes and Comments

Patient and Provider Impact

“As COVID-19 cases began to decrease, we had the growing realization that non-COVID patient care was suffering and being comprised in the process. Together with the American Thoracic Society, we have created guidelines for restoring care for patients that allows them safe access to in-person elective services. A broad-based guidance for reintroducing elective in-person pulmonary services will lead to a structured and evidence based patient care during these uncertain times.”

“The guidelines are a unified approach and a roadmap for pulmonary practitioners across the country in the delivery of pulmonary and sleep care. Establishing guidelines allows clinics to prepare for influxes of patients during times of social distancing and mask requirements.”

“Some patients may benefit from telemedicine visits while others may require a face to face appointment. The ATS guidelines provide direction on how to determine the best lead of action for different patients while mitigating the risk of contracting COVID-19.” 

How should patients prepare for an appointment?

“All patients should have an open line of communication with their physicians to chart out a plan based on their potential risks and determine if they would benefit more from an in-person visit or a virtual appointment. If you schedule an in-person appointment, be prepared to follow all the protocols of the clinic including social distancing and mask guidelines.”

How will WVU be implementing these guidelines?

“Enforcing these guidelines is mostly being done through education of the key elements to relevant stakeholders including WVU Department of Medicine leadership, Sleep Center and Bronchoscopy Medical directors.”

“These guidelines are a living document and must be assessed and modified as necessary to relate to the local environment. Having worked closely with preparing the guidelines, the leadership is confident that all operations, if not already aligned with the suggestions, require only minor tweaking. All clinics will be trained on the guidelines as we continue to keep our care environment safe for the delivery of direct care in the midst of a global pandemic.”

– Dr. Sunil Sharma, section chief, professor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep at WVU

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CONTACT: Haleigh Fields
Communications Specialist
WVU School of Medicine

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