Visits in pediatric practices were as expected through the week ending Saturday, March 14th, 2020. Starting Monday, March 16th, the impact of businesses and school closures as well as the awareness of COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the engagement of patients with pediatric practices. The COVID-19 Pandemic is an event that pediatric practices never experienced prior to March 2020. There was no model of how to operate a pediatric practice during a pandemic so practices adapted quickly to the new environment based on available information.
While each practice leader adjusted their approach to the impact of the pandemic, we worked to support pediatric practice clients of Physician Xpress, Inc. Some areas of support by the PhysicianXpress team included:
-Providing a means for all practices to schedule and record TeleHealth visits in the PediatricXpress System by Monday, March 16th.
-Sending out a communication to each practice owner/leader, including instructions on how to record a telehealth visit.
-Providing a weekly update at the end of the first week (3/23) as well as the end of the 2nd week (3/30) on this impact including suggested actions for the practice leader and owner to take to adjust practice operations during the pandemic.
Leaders and owners of pediatric practices were agile and able to adjust quickly. Over 80% of pediatric practices were using TeleHealth and recording visits within the first week in addition to seeing patients in the office. Even with the option of practices providing both in-office and TeleHealth visit options, the average pediatric practice had about a 55% reduction in total visit volume compared to the earlier part of March. This significant reduction in visit volume. Most businesses and schools closed on March 13th. Parents delayed ‘non-essential’ well visits. Managed care offered to cover TeleHealth Visits for providers by March 18th to align with the national emergency declaration as well as the approach taken by Medicare and Medicaid.
Pediatric practices are essential part of the community to help children manage their healthcare needs. We will look at the immediate impact of the pandemic and provide some suggested changes in the approach that pediatric practices should consider in the future.