PHOENIX — From chaos and confusion, to improved treatment plans and therapies, several doctors shared lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several doctors with Mayo Clinic joined together Thursday to discuss some of the takeaways from the past year.
"How profound it is that social inequity kills people," said Dr. Andrew Badley with Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. "Disadvantaged populations have essential jobs where... they can't work from home, which means they are at high risk for exposure. They're often overcrowded at work and at home."
According to the state's coronavirus dashboard, in Arizona, COVID-19 has killed nearly 14,000 people.
"The one thing that I wish I knew... is that how long this pandemic would last," said Dr. Alyssa Chapital, the hospital medical director for Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
Dr. Chapital also noted the importance of communication between public health departments and hospital systems and how they had to improve the communication channels at the early stages of the pandemic.
"We could have done that better in the beginning," she said. "Retrospectively, you don't know what you could have done better until later, and that's how medicine works."
Dr. Chapital noted capacity constraints during the coronavirus surges, which saw patients being cared for in abnormal rooms, yet still receiving the same level of care.
"We developed models to do that, where we could take care of a patient in a pre-op type of fashion in the same room, to an ICU fashion, all the way down to a med/surge fashion," Dr. Chapital said. "I think that concept... is how you build the hospitals of the future. Doesn't make sense to move patients all over the hospital as they change their acuity."
While the pandemic is by no means over, frontline workers are finally seeing some relief from the second large surge of patients, as hospitalization metrics have been improving for several weeks.
"It's really been a blur over the last year and how quickly we've done this," said Dr. Kris Samaddar, an emergency medicine physician with HonorHealth.
Dr. Samaddar reflected back on the past year.
"We have this stress level that just fluctuated based on, 'are we in a surge, are we not in a surge?" Dr. Samaddar said. "The unanswered questions regarding treatments, what works, what doesn't work."
Dr. Samaddar noted improving methods of treatment - and therapies - that have developed over the past year. The pandemic, not even officially called that by the World Health Organization one year ago (March), has brought surprises along the way.
The first confirmed case of coronavirus in Arizona was January 2020.
"Even then, we're like, we weren't sure that it would hit to this extent," he said. "Everybody could have prepared more for this."
Over the past year, doctors have been fine-tuning methods to treat COVID patients, including when to put them on a ventilator. Initially, some doctors' thinking was to put some patients on a ventilator earlier in the process.
"Early mechanical ventilation, we're not doing that at all, we're doing the opposite, trying to keep them off the ventilator as long as possible," Dr. Samaddar said. "We know if they get on the ventilator, and they get in the ICU, they have a mortality rate of over 50% [in] this surge."
Despite navigating months of uncertainty, Dr. Samaddar told ABC15 he's glad he is in this position.
"It's an honor to be able to serve and lead during a time of crisis," he said.