You expect medical masks in a doctor’s office, but when you see the receptionist wearing a mask, you know you’ve entered a doctor’s office in the COVID-19 era.
“Life changed dramatically for us about five weeks ago,” said Dr. Jessica Marsh with Pediatric Partners of the Southwest.
With school out, the practice’s clinic at Durango High School is now used to see infants and toddlers.
“We are seeing most of our older patients for well-visits via telemedicine, and we began using the high school clinic to see infants because we want to keep them up to date on vaccinations,” Marsh said. “There would be nothing worse than to have a measles outbreak now.”
Conversion of the high school clinic to treat infants and toddlers is but one change at Pediatric Partners.
The office is being cleaned three times a day, to the point where the cleaning has become a bit of an obsessive tendency, Marsh said.
“We want to keep everyone healthy, and we don’ want to transmit anything or have anyone bring in the virus,” she said of the extraordinary cleanings now taken.
All well-visits are now conducted by telemedicine.
Sick children are seen in drive-up setups in their cars with Pediatric Partners nurses and doctors tending to their patients in full personal protective equipment.
Every employee is in a mask, many of them donated by local seamstresses.
The practice has a new UV light it uses to sanitize N95 masks for reuse. Marsh said it takes 30 minutes of exposure to UV rays to kill the novel coronavirus.
Marsh’s father came across face shields at a Home Depot in Kentucky, and they have been repurposed for use at Pediatric Partners.
“We’re finding we can repurpose recreational and industrial equipment and it does a great job protecting the eyes,” Marsh said.
Practices adopted to meet the challenges of COVID-19 by Pediatric Partners of the Southwest are based on guidelines sent to pediatric offices by Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Like many workplaces, the workflow has changed, with about half of Pediatric Partners’ 44 employees now working from home.
Fewer children are getting sick, Marsh said, because school is out and transmission of all germs, not just coronavirus, is down.
Marsh said Pediatric Partners visits are running at a rate of 60% of normal, and that is good by national standards.
“We view 60% of visits as a success. Many pediatric practices are seeing only 20% of normal,” she said.
With fewer sick patients, Pediatric Partners is working on a project to create reminders to parents to keep their children on schedule for vaccinations.
Other projects include calling families ahead of telemed visits to ensure they have the adequate computer, software and internet connection to complete the visit.
She noted a lot of rural patients don’t have robust internet connections.
Only a few families have declined conducting telemed visits, and some families enjoy them, and increased use of telemedicine after COVID-19 has cleared is something that will likely persist, Marsh said.
Adina Ackerman, who brought her 15-month-old daughter, Ruby, in for vaccinations, said both she and her husband, Sean Dugan, had been able to obtain prescriptions through the phone without a doctor’s visit, something she found convenient.
“This is making us more flexible and creative, and all that’s to the good. We’ll be able to meet people where they are,” Marsh said.