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Chapters mobilize to help members navigate pandemic challenges :

May 1, 2020

Editor's note:For the latest news on coronavirus disease 2019, visit  https://www.aappublications.org/news/2020/01/28/coronavirus.

No one could have anticipated the impact the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic would have on the health care system and pediatricians. In response, AAP chapters banded together to stay connected, discuss challenges and find solutions during this unprecedented time of uncertainty.

Sharing strategies, resources

Located in the first state with reported COVID-19 cases, the Washington Chapter reached out to other chapters to let them know they would need to mobilize quickly to provide resources and strategies to their members.

The chapter developed Promising Practices from the WCAAP (https://bit.ly/2JsCNUe), which provided ideas on how to restructure care to keep patients, providers and the community safe and to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE).

“We grounded our efforts in learning and community, emphasizing at every turn that all of us are learning and no one is expert,” said chapter Executive Director Sarah Rafton. “A unique challenge was keeping up with knowledge and resources as they developed and the sheer volume of our member inquiries.”

The Utah Chapter also created guidance for community pediatricians and shared an editable version (https://www.aaputah.org/covid-19/) that other chapters could replicate.

The North Carolina Chapter implemented a weekly call for members to share challenges such as PPE shortages, telehealth implementation and unexpected financial issues.

“This short weekly call offered our members the opportunity to share solutions and connect with their amazing colleagues from around the state,” said chapter Executive Director Elizabeth Hudgins, M.P.P.

The Washington Chapter also held a call for pediatricians across the state to share challenges and related practices. Feedback from participants was positive, especially pediatricians in small, independent practices who were feeling lost.

“One of the needs we were feeling most acutely from our membership was for community, allyship and peer-to-peer education given how quickly recommendations were changing. The calls allowed us to provide this network in a way that is grassroots but bolstered by the incredible expertise of the Washington Chapter members,” said chapter President Elizabeth Meade, M.D., FAAP.

Telehealth visits, social distancing

Many chapters discussed providing guidance to their patients and members on workflow recommendations via phone triage, telehealth, separating well and sick children, and conducting COVID-19 testing.

California Chapter 4 President Katherine Williamson, M.D., FAAP, implemented and led a successful workflow and telehealth model for the primary care offices at her hospital organization. She also set up telehealth for her practice and after one day of education was able to conduct 50% of the telehealth visits after going live.

“It is key to establish a workflow, set a culture of safety and respect in your own practice, and continue to check back in with daily huddles,” Dr. Williamson said.

The chapter also emailed weekly updates to members and conducted weekly calls to keep their members and community partners informed.

The Alabama Chapter developed a video message for parents about managing their children’s care and staying safe and healthy during the pandemic (https://bit.ly/39rREJm). Steps for parents included information regarding telehealth visits, scheduling well visits, COVID-19 testing and social distancing.

AAP chapters followed federal and state guidance on social distancing, shifting staff to work from home and postponing or cancelling many in-person meetings.

“Our board of directors embraced conducting virtual meetings to stay in touch,” said Loretta Hoepfner, M.S.O.D., executive director of the Maryland Chapter. The task now is to figure out how to keep their important work moving forward.

Chapters shared growing concerns about the unknown impact for vulnerable populations as a result of isolation during the pandemic. The AAP will continue to provide chapter leaders with materials on how to advocate in their state regarding the many issues facing pediatricians and children as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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