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5 ways pediatricians are getting back to well child visits

As we approach the summer season, the demand for well child appointments will likely increase due to scheduled immunizations. We talked to 11 pediatric practices about how they’re approaching well child visits in the age of COVID-19 and learned the top five ways they’re getting ready.

1 | Determining the right time for well child visits

Though wellness checkups typically start in May, many practices expect returning to well child visits and immunizations in June due to delays from COVID-19,  and are preparing for a busy July and August as well. Even with delays, staying on schedule is key to keeping young children healthy, as many public schools require proof of immunizations.

The decision to reopen varies by practice depending on a number of factors as recommended by CMS and the CDC, including:

  • Incidence rate in region
  • Availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies
  • An infection prevention plan setup to reduce transmission

According to a survey by Piper Sandler, primary care physicians reported that their well patient visits were down by more than 65% between March and April. However, patient volumes are expected to rebound – reaching about 55% in June and 76% to normal in September.1

2 | Establishing new safety standards for well child visits

Infection prevention has always been a top priority, but even more so now. Here are some of the ways practices are reducing exposure and transmission of COVID-19:

  • Using separate facilities for well and sick visits
  • Scheduling well visits in the morning and sick visits in the afternoon
  • Designating separate entrances and exits
  • Placing extra tissues, hand sanitizers and trash bins throughout office
  • Practicing social distancing by spacing chairs in waiting room 6 feet apart
  • Using posters, floor decals and table tents throughout office to reinforce safety protocols
  • Parking lot check-ins and asking patients to wait in car versus waiting room
  • Limiting or restricting visitors
  • Taking temperatures of staff and patients upon entry
  • Increasing use of PPE
  • Frequent deep cleaning
  • Instructing all patients to wear masks
  • Prioritizing hand hygiene before, during and after each patient visit
  • Requiring a telehealth visit before in-person sick visits

3 | Stocking up on vaccines for well child visits

The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of the importance of vaccination, however, according to the CDC, fewer childhood vaccines have been given in the last 3 months; this means there is an increased risk for potential outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases2.

Most pediatricians expect immunization volume to catch up throughout the summer and plan to order vaccines as patients start to return. Carefully monitor the expiration date of existing vaccines, and stock up accordingly on additional vaccines, needles, syringes and other key supplies to ensure you can meet the patient demand.

“Once kids start attending class, it’d be better if they were immunized and ahead of the game than waiting. Other illnesses are still out there.”
— Nursing Supervisor, Texas

4 | Frequently communicating with patients

Reminding parents of the vital need to protect their children against vaccine-preventable diseases, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, is critical. As social distancing requirements relax, children who are not vaccinated can be more vulnerable to diseases such as measles2.

Many practices are staying in touch with patients throughout the pandemic via text, email and social media, communicating updates such as:

  • The importance of staying on their immunization schedule
  • Practice closings & re-openings
  • Reassurance of their safety precautions

Some pediatricians are also reviewing patient charts and calling those who have missed their scheduled immunization.

Recommendations for Reopening Facilities Phase I >
Recommendations for Reopening Facilities Phase II >

5 | Preparing for cold and flu season

Many pediatricians are preparing for another incidence of COVID-19 in the fall, coinciding with flu season, by:

  • Preparing for a higher demand of flu tests and flu shots
  • Adding point of care lab testing
  • Continuing to follow strict infection prevention protocols

“I think the flu shot is going to be a big deal this year. You don’t want flu and coronavirus at the same time, and we already have people asking if we have flu available. So I think we’ll give away all the flu shots we can possibly get our hands on this year.”
— Physician/Medical Director Rural Health Clinic, Mississippi

1: Piper Sandler Physician Survey, Conducted May 2020, Featured in Healthcare Dive article, Doctors say COVID-19 has slashed patient volumes, made finances shaky, 4.13.20.

2: Santoli JM, Lindley MC, DeSilva MB, et al. Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Routine Pediatric Vaccine Ordering and Administration — United States, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:591-593. DOI: