Happy Monday, 

We hope you all are settling into a semblance of a new routine.  We are aware of the stressors facing our community and are here to help however we can.

We would like to provide yet another update to inform you about our current office policies and practices.  These have changed dramatically in the past week and have been developed in conjunction with the PPOC, DPH, and other local large pediatric practices. 

Starting today, our offices will be working with limited in-office staff and many more people working remotely.  Our goal is to see as many patients via telehealth as possible while simultaneously keeping our offices open for the select few visits that are appropriate for in-office visits.  Telehealth enables patients to get care and routine check ups to be completed while also minimizing unnecessary illness exposure for you (and for us)!

What visits should NOT be seen in the office?
Routine check ups for anyone 18 months of age and older, as well as med checks and other behavioral health visits should be completed via telehealth.

Also, according to the most recent DPH guidelines, patients should NOT come into the office if they have had direct contact with a confirmed COVID case or if they have ANY OF THE FOLLOWING SYMPTOMS – fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, difficulty breathing.  THESE SYMPTOMS SHOULD BE REPORTED TO US AND SEEN ONLY VIA A TELEHEALTH VISIT.

As you may have read, the medical community is GREATLY AT RISK due to the lack of available Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  Our office is not exempt from this dilemma as we lack the necessary amount of  PPE required to manage a drawn out epidemic.  In light of this and in order to preserve a supply of gowns/masks/goggles/etc. . . the DPH is requiring that mildly and moderately ill patients must stay home and complete any medical visits via telehealth.  

We are anticipating a tidal wave of very sick patients who may need to be seen in the coming weeks and we need to ensure an adequate supply of PPE.  PLEASE adhere to the DPH guidelines above regarding office visits.  Thank you.

What visits should still be seen in the office?
Not many.

Newborn visits and routine check ups for babies (2-15 month olds) are still important in order to get critical immunizations administered.

In addition, we are permitted to see very select illness visits in which there is no fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, chest pain, or difficulty breathing.

What visits should be seen via Telehealth? 
As many as possible!  This includes all check ups for children (older than 15 months of age), all med checks, and the vast majority of sick visits.  In addition, all behavioral health visits should be completed remotely. 

What do you need to do to prepare for a Telehealth visit?  We will be sending out an e-mail shortly with all the information about this.  Briefly, you (or your child if age 13 or older) need to be registered on MyChart and you need to download the Zoom app.  All of this information is available on our website.

A few words about billing:In an attempt to allow medical offices to maintain income and therefore stay open to care for their patients, the Governor has mandated that all insurance companies cover telehealth services effective immediately.  According to this edict, any service related to COVID-19 (ie: any fever, cough, sore throat, body ache, difficulty breathing, etc. . . ) will have no co-pay or cost to the patient.  In addition, routine check ups are to be billed as if they were in person (which, according to the Affordable Care Act, have no co-pay).

As part of this change in practice, the Governor has stated that telephone calls with providers may also be submitted for billing.  While these billing codes have been in place for many years, insurance companies have, by and large, refused to reimburse them. In the current COVID-19 Pandemic, however, these are now being encouraged.

As a result, we will be having our providers make up for some of the significant decreased number of in-office visits by handling more of the telephone calls.  Services that we historically have provided over the phone without billing for them, may now be submitted to your insurance company (including conjunctivitis, croup, swimmer’s ear, home rapid strep tests, and others). Based on our (and other’s) interpretation of the mandate, we do not expect any of this to result in increased costs to you. 

Please note that we fully expect this change to be temporary.  We are very proud of our home care that we have historically provided to our patients.  Our program of Home Rapid Strep Tests, our Home Croup Protocol, and our ability to treat conjunctivitis and swimmer’s ear over the phone, set us apart from other pediatric practices – once this crisis has passed, we expect to revert to our previous system.

Help us help you! 
We ask that you please help support us during this time.  The best thing you can do to help us stay open is to make a telehealth appointment today!  If you are overdue for physical exam or have had an issue you’ve wanted to discuss, please call the office to set up an appointment!

All of us at Westwood-Mansfield Pediatric Associates