It has been over sixteen months since the COVID-19 pandemic started in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly altered how pediatric practices engage with patients. While the changes were significant, pediatric practice leaders and owners learned how to optimize the situation. The wearing of masks and social distancing in the winter of 2020-2021 helped with managing the spread of COVID-19 and also dramatically reduced the number of sick visits at pediatric offices. While there is still impact due to the COVID19 Pandemic, the visit count in the second quarter of 2021 is much higher than the total visit count in the second quarter of 2020 (due to the stay at home orders for much of 2Q20).
If the second quarter of 2021 is compared to the second quarter of 2019 (year with no COVID), the average practice experienced about an 18% drop in visits in 2021 vs. 2019. So, even though the increases in the total number of visits during 2021 vs. 2020 are very significant, the average pediatric practice had less visits in the 2021 when compared to two years ago. A primary reason for this is that children were home with home school and mask wearing for most of the 2nd quarter that resulted in the sick visits being down to the office. Additionally, there are still limited activities that children participate which means less required school and activity well visits for pediatric offices.
June of 2021 is starting to return to a “normal” pediatric visit month. The visits for most practices in June of 2021 were the same or higher than June 2019 (Pre-COVID-19). The hope is that the 3rd Quarter of 2021 is similar and that the nation moves forward.
There are many learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic related to operating a pediatric practice. One key learning is that the COVID pandemic further confirmed that the core visit role of a pediatric office is the well visit and pediatric vaccinations. Pediatric practice leaders and owners should become even more focused on scheduling well visits for patients that are due or overdue for an appointment as well as patients behind on their vaccinations.
Operating and managing a pediatric practice since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging from a medical and business perspective. This environment required pediatric practice leaders to enhance their flexibility, learning and resilience.