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APRIL 08, 2020 -- What exactly constitutes appropriate ambulatory gynecology during this time of social distancing?
On March 30, 2020, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) weighed in, releasing COVID-19 FAQs for Obstetrician-Gynecologists. These recommendations, which include information about obstetric and gynecologic surgery, are available to everyone, including the general public. They are intended to supplement guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as previously released ACOG guidance.
The recommendations include examples of patients needing in-person appointments, telehealth visits, or visits that should be deferred.
In-person appointments. Examples of patients for whom in-person appointments are appropriate include those with suspected ectopic pregnancy or profuse vaginal bleeding. With respect to contraceptive services, ACOG suggests that placement of IUDs and implants should continue whenever possible. If placement of the contraceptive device is deferred, use of self-administered hormonal contraceptives (including subcutaneous injections, oral, transdermal patch, and vaginal ring) should be encouraged as a bridge to later initiation of long-acting methods.
Telehealth visits. Video or telephone visits are advised for women desiring counseling and prescribing for contraception or menopausal symptoms.
Deferred. Deferral of office visits until after COVID is advised for average-risk women wishing routine well-woman visits. Other situations where deferral should be considered:
For patients with abnormal cervical cancer screening results, ACOG suggests that colposcopy with cervical biopsies could be deferred for 6-12 months for patients with low-grade test results. In contrast, for patients with high-grade results, ACOG recommends that evaluation be performed within 3 months.
For women who wish to discontinue their contraceptive, ACOG advises that removal of IUDs and implants be postponed when possible. These women should be counseled regarding extended use of these devices.
ACOG emphasizes that decisions regarding ambulatory gynecology should be individualized, taking into consideration such issues as availability of local and regional resources, staffing, personal protective equipment, and the local prevalence of COVID-19.
As a gynecologist focused on ambulatory care, I believe that many clinicians will welcome this guidance from ACOG, which helps us provide optimal care during these challenging times.