Editor’s note:To learn more about the candidates and election rules, visit www.aap.org/election(login required). Voting will take place from Aug. 25 to Sept. 8. The winner will serve as AAP president in 2023.
The pandemic instantaneously changed the practice of pediatrics. What changes do you think are here to stay and how will you lead the AAP to support pediatricians in adjusting to these changes?
Joseph L. Wright, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP
Over the past 18 months, I have led the pandemic response across a multicampus health system serving a disproportionately impacted region. This experience has provided a number of lessons learned, among them a renewed appreciation for the value of sustained and supported telehealth services.
Driven by the need to maintain physical distance yet remain connected to patients and families, health systems, practices and providers across the country have systematically leveraged technology-driven platforms to perform a range of telehealth services.
Telehealth has been shown to be effective in reducing disparities in access to those in underserved urban and rural communities by bridging communication gaps and allowing for the continuation of care. Many of the pre-pandemic restrictions governing the use and administration of telehealth services have been waived during the public health emergency to increase access especially for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
Locally, with the support of the AAP state chapter, the Maryland legislature successfully passed The Preserve Telehealth Access Act of 2021, which among other provisions, guarantees payment for telehealth equivalent to the same service provided in person.
At the federal level, the Academy has endorsed The CONNECT for Health Act of 2021, which seeks to expand access to telehealth services, support health care providers and beneficiaries in utilizing telehealth, and permanently waive restrictions to telehealth.
Advocacy is required, however, to bridge the digital divide and ensure equitable access to high-speed internet and broadband across all of our communities, an issue the Academy is well-positioned to address.
Sandy L. Chung, M.D., FAAP
As chapter president during the pandemic, I led efforts to support members who struggled to obtain personal protective equipment (PPE), implement testing and vaccinate the community. Across the country, we innovated and adapted our workflows on a near daily basis. Post-pandemic, the Academy should continue to provide rapid, relevant, evidence-based, practical clinical guidance as the trusted source of pediatric information.
Coping with the increased mental health needs for our patients is a priority. I will leverage my experience creating a statewide mental health access program to address improved payment models, increased community access, clinician self-care and fostering alliances with mental health organizations.
Adequate payment for primary and specialty telehealth will be required to support these services. As co-author of “Pediatric Telehealth in the COVID-19 Pandemic Era and Beyond” in Pediatrics (https://bit.ly/2TMFUza), I have significant experience in health information technology and data. To preserve the medical home, the AAP must educate families on appropriate use of telehealth. We need regulatory and technical support as we integrate digital processes and contactless interactions.
Safety of our members and our patients is paramount as COVID persists and new variants emerge. The Academy must ensure that pediatricians are high priority in the distribution of PPE, vaccines and future treatments for COVID-19. As frontline health care providers for the youngest patients not yet eligible for vaccines, pediatricians must be kept safe.
The pandemic has been a career- and life-altering event. With a focus on your well-being, I look forward to working together building a brighter future for pediatricians and the families we serve!