While the total impact of the COVID-19 pandemic varied by pediatric practice, each pediatric practice that we work with was able to operate through the year. Operating a pediatric practice in 2020 required pediatric practice owners and leaders to be flexible, creative, and resilient during a year of many unknowns without a ‘road map’ of how to operate during an international pandemic. There were a number of choices and decisions for owners of pediatric practices depending on their approach to operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. These choices included determining: hours of operation, need/ability to operate evening hours, choices on how the practice will provide rapid COVID testing and/or take samples for tests to send out to a PCR lab like Labcorp or Quest, decisions on which visit/patients to leverage Telehealth versus live visits, as well as other factors to consider. Overall, pediatric practices did a good job identifying the approach that aligns to their practice needs and goals, making operational changes to the practice, seeing patients and being available to support patients and families.
While the Physician Xpress team provided enhanced tools and resources to support pediatric practices during this major change, the hard work was managed by the pediatric practices including front desk or other team members calling patients due for well visits, chronic condition visits and/or vaccine only visits and schedule the appointments. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, patients were in significantly less activities, school time, as well as people interactions which decreased the number of sick visits and need for certain visits such as sports physicals.
Below is a chart that shows the average impact on total visits per month in 2020 compared to 2019. Note that the most significant impact on visit volume was in April 2020 and May 2020 with the summer months (June – September) having the least impact. In October and November, pediatric practices experienced a more significant impact compared to the summer.
A deeper dive into the data shows that overall, the average practice had a 8% decrease in Well Visits in October-November 2020 compared to 2019 but had about a 40% decrease in sick visits. Since children were either home or restricted from many activities compared to 2019, there were less sick visits. Additionally, some parents continue to avoid pediatric practices during the pandemic.
Looking ahead to 2021, there is much hope and optimism for pediatric practices due to the COVID-19 vaccines becoming broadly available. Thanks for your efforts and resilience in 2020 and for being an integral resource for your patients, parents and the community.