I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe. I cannot tell you how proud I am of the pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgeons on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic working around the clock to protect your communities.
I want to assure you that during this uncertain time, we are in constant contact with state and federal leaders, we are updating clinical guidance to our members and we are keeping parents informed on how to navigate this new normal. Below are a few key updates and resources I wanted to share personally with you today.
Making our voice heard at the White House
Today, I joined by phone with leaders from other leading medical organizations to advocate for the Academy’s coronavirus response priorities directly to President Trump. The administration was engaged and very grateful for all we are doing to care for children and families during this crisis.
Here’s what I urged:
- Enable telehealth services for all patients by ensuring that Medicaid, CHIP and commercial payors cover care via video, phone, and email, to reach patients where they are – including in their homes. This includes paying for telehealth services at the same levels they would pay for face-to-face care.
- Support pediatricians’ ability to care for children whether they are sick or well. That includes vaccines for preventable infectious diseases, so we don’t have outbreaks of other illnesses.
- Take swift action to make more personal protective equipment available, including for ambulatory care providers.
- Ensure that any coronavirus vaccine or therapeutic is adequately tested and approved for use in children.
I left the meeting encouraged, but realizing it is our duty to keep children in the conversation with our leaders.
Having a seat at the virtual table matters, and we will not stop pushing for our priorities until we see them addressed.
Earlier today, we also sent a letter to Congress with the Children’s Hospital Association and released joint recommendations with the Group of 6 frontline physicians, reiterating these asks and calling for Medicaid payment parity with Medicare. We’ll keep sharing advocacy opportunities as Congress considers coronavirus response legislation.
Updating clinical guidance on well-child and sick visits
One question we’ve received from many of you is, how do we provide routine preventive and sick care during this pandemic? I am still seeing patients in my practice in Georgia, and this question is top of mind for me too. That’s why I’m especially proud to share that today, we published recommendations to give you some best practices for how to care for your patients under these conditions. Some key takeaways are:
- Continue to offer well-child check-ups. Consider conducting well visits for newborns, and for infants and younger children who require immunizations, and rescheduling well visits for those in middle childhood and older to a later date.
- Be flexible. Consider modifying your clinical schedule and physical space to minimize risk. Increase capacity to deliver telehealth when possible.
What You Can Do
We recognize we are all practicing pediatrics in circumstances we have never encountered before in our careers. To give you some practical guidance, AAP experts have recorded two new webinars on COVID-19. Watch them whenever is convenient for you:
- COVID-19 Pandemic – Clinical Guidance for Pediatric Practices: Strategies for pediatricians to increase infection control practices in their office to protect patients and health care workers.
- Talking to and Supporting Children During a Pandemic: Helping clinicians understand how to talk to and support children during the COVID-19 pandemic, including how to help parents talk to their children.
Look for an update soon on emergency actions related to telehealth services, including how to engage with your state Medicaid agency and other payors.
Consult our new parent resources: HealthyChildren.org has a constantly updated page on coronavirus and a new resource on social distancing. We also offer new tips for helping parents find ways to occupy children during these challenging times.
Thank you for all you do especially in this unprecedented moment. I will continue to be in touch as developments unfold. Until then, stay safe and continue to support one another.
Sally Goza, MD, FAAP
President, American Academy of Pediatrics