Since March 14th, we have been working non-stop to keep our staff and our patients safe in and out of the office. We stay updated on official recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the Oregon Health Authority, and remain in contact with local pediatric practices, pediatric infectious disease specialists, and pediatrician across the country. I even had the opportunity to participate in a webinar with a thousand pediatricians across the globe, hearing first-hand from pediatricians in Wuhan. Our goal has been to ensure safety in the office and to give the best guidance to keep you safe at home. As part of this effort we appreciate all of you who gave us feedback via our recent survey. I’d like to share those results with you.
While there have been some who have wanted to postpone visits, 87% of you have continued to come into the office for needed visits. While social distancing is a necessary part of flattening the COVID-19 curve, growing and developing humans still require essential medical care, developmental screening, mental health screening and treatment, and vaccines. CDC has published data showing a significant decrease in immunizations rates since a national emergency was declared in March. Similar decreases in vaccination rates have been seen globally as well, leaving us susceptible to outbreaks of communicable diseases such as pertussis and measles. We continue to work hard to maintain high levels of vaccine protection and preventive health care for our patients.
In the survey we asked what was important to you in order to feel safe at your appointment. We were happy to see that what was important to you was also important to us, and was what we were already doing.
- Regular cleaning has always been an important part of keeping a pediatric office safe and disinfected, including all surfaces of each room between each patient. We have been using only products approved by the FDA for novel coronavirus, and have stepped up our cleaning game. All areas of the office are cleaned more frequently than ever before.
- We are fortunate to have a separate adolescent clinic that we now use for patients with any respiratory or GI symptoms, or is accompanied by a family member with symptoms. This allows us to keep the main office for healthy patients and families.
- We have been following CDC and OHA guidelines for PPE since March, and will continue to do so. We also require masks for anyone entering the office down to age 4 years.
- We have maximized social distancing as much as possible with multiple staff members working from home. In addition we have separated staff in the office from each other as much as possible. Our lunchroom is limited to two people. We are also maintaining social distancing amongst patients by having you check in from your car and entering the office only when we have a room available.
- Telehealth visits have been a welcome addition to our services. These visits allow us to screen symptomatic patients more safely, give us an eye on sick patients not in the office, and have been invaluable in managing mental health issues in adolescents. I’ve also enjoyed meeting many of your pets!
- While we are not routinely doing curbside visits or vaccines, we have done these in certain circumstances. We are also looking forward to having a drive through flu clinic this fall.
- We have installed physical barriers at the front desk as an extra layer of protection for our front office staff.
While we continue to rely on our fantastic advice nurses and the patient portal to help answer your questions, we learned that almost 80% of you rely on our website to get information about COVID-19. We continue to add information, and will update our COVID-19 FAQ section as needed. We’ve posted important updates, such as information about Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children and how to stay physically and emotionally healthy during a time of isolation. Stay tuned for information about the topic weighing heavily on us all: what school will look like this fall.
Thank you to those of you who participated in this survey, and thank you to all of you who honor us with the privilege of caring for your children. We are so grateful for your patience and understanding as our clinic routines have evolved dramatically. And we especially thank you for the hardships and sacrifices you have made to stay socially distanced and keep our community, our children, our healthcare providers safe and healthy.