Latest COVID-19 Update
April 5, 2020
Now that our staff is fully vaccinated, we are very excited to be able to open up the practice to more in person visits. We will continue to practice screening protocols and social distancing, but we now believe in-person care can be safe! Here are the changes you will experience in this first phase of a “return to normal(ish)” operations.
- If a patient is at very low risk for COVID, the best care for sick kids is in person. Our priority is for your child to see their own doctor for sick and well visits. In person visits are best for ears, strep, coughs and rashes.
- We will STILL BE AVOIDING USING OUR WAITING AREAS. We will make every effort to make sure you cross paths with as few people, for the shortest amount of time possible. We’ll use our texting tool to call you up for the foreseeable future. Masking & distancing will allow us to bring sick kids in during any part of our normal work day, even mornings, which has been previously strictly avoided.
- Masks are still required for 2+. .
- Telemed is still a great tool. However, we will no longer require a telemedicine visit prior to an in-person visit as long as the COVID risk is low. Telemed works great for parent conferences and many behavioral visits. We can use telemed for some acute injuries and ill visits as well without reducing the level of care. We will let you know which we feel would be best for your particular circumstances, but please let us know if you have a strong preference.
- Patients will be prescreened with COVID-risk questions regarding vaccination status, recent travel and exposure. Please be honest with your answers & we promise to take good care of you no matter what.
- If a patient needs COVID testing or has known exposures, a telemed visit is going to be required, with rare exceptions.
Finally, as we work toward a return to a new normal, there will be hiccups & disagreements about what’s best. That’s ok. If you feel that your needs aren’t being met, please let us know with a portal message to your provider or a message for our office manager. We definitely want your feedback!
Happy to report that our RAPID (Antigen) testing is available again Monday-Friday. We paused while we assessed a manufacturer’s issue, and we have confirmed our technique is good to go and we have now resumed the testing process. For our patients, we require a telemedicine visit to review each case individually. Telemedicine visits and testing are always billed according to your insurance plan. Sometimes the rapid test is best, but sometimes the PCR (non-rapid) is the right choice – our providers will work with you to make the right decisions.
For non-patients, we are happy to provide rapid testing as a courtesy, but tests are provided directly to the patient without additional medical advice. Test results should be discussed with your medical provider. The cost for this service is $99 and is self-pay only.
All positive tests are called same day – usually by 5 pm. All negative results are called as quickly as possible, the next day at the latest.
We encourage you all to be mindful of the recent uptick in cases and be extremely diligent with your choices. Please avoid large gatherings. Please wear your mask when within 6 feet of someone who is not in your immediate household. Please wash hands frequently. We are so grateful that our patients who have tested positive have had mild symptoms. It is our fondest hope that as few of our kids are exposed, become sick, or expose others/make them sick. When we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, we celebrate thousands of healthy kids and families we are privileged to care for ….. staying healthy.
For a short time (we hope) we have put a pause on rapid tests because of technical challenges. When we are certain that we can give accurate results, we’ll resume the rapid tests. Until then, we are offering PCR tests to our current patients at our 3 pm drive through Monday-Friday. The turn around time is usually 1-2 days and will be sent to CPL labs unless your insurance requires a different lab. We apologize for the inconvenience & appreciate your patience as we all ride on the COVID roller coaster.
We now have access to accurate, rapid COVID-19 testing at our office Monday-Friday. The test is quite accurate, requires only a nasal swab (not as deep as the nasopharyngeal swab), and we can have results same or next day. Even better, we are able to offer this test to our patients, their families/extended family members, and even the general public. Costs for testing will be billed to insurance as we always do for our patients, and we will require a telemedicine visit first to ensure we are providing comprehensive care, advice, and precautions. For all others, the cost is $99, telemedicine visit is required BUT AN APPOINTMENT IS NEEDED. We are providing the test for non-patients as a service, but their care based on the results must be managed by their own doctors. To schedule a test or learn more, please call our office (512) 288-9669.
Can you believe we’re approaching our third month of this amazing, distressing, unprecedented, historic event? We want to first tell our parents that we have been incredibly proud and impressed with how you are handling the stress and strain you are under. When we ask, “how are you doing?,” parents reply – usually with a heavy sigh – and then, “fine. We’re hanging in there.” And they mean it. We are seeing our families try to make sense out of confusion, order out of chaos, and tackle what is essential, while letting go of what needs to be released for now. Parents, you get an A plus.
We have settled into some new routines and want to remind you that mornings are exclusively for well children. We screen for illness, and only kids who are well come in for well check, routine follow ups, procedures, etc. The Texas Medical Board has asked that we have ALL guests wear masks, so we’re going to try to have all kids > 2 wear a mask. I said try. Telemedicine has been working wonderfully – we are seeing you at home, the Wildflower Center, the park, in your back yards.
As this continues to drag on, we know that it may start to take a toll on your patience, and it may be putting excess stress on your kids – as they miss their friends, get completely out of their routine, show regression in their behavior – please know our behavioral staff are ready to help you (and your kids) cope with really difficult times. Please feel free to call our Behavioral Health Team directly @ (512) 884-1573.
A couple of key updates:
- We now have the ability for you to make an on-line appointment for a telemedicine visit through your patient portal. We are screening all sick kids through telemedicine and bringing in those who need an in-person visit. Online/portal scheduling is available every for regular AND extended hours. If you don’t see an appointment that works for you, you are always welcome to call the front desk (512) 288-9669 for more information.
- As testing has become somewhat more available, Austin Public Health is now offering testing without a physician referral for COVID19 using the following link. Please know that we still would very much like to know that you are pursuing testing, have been tested, or if you have received results. This is not a guarantee of testing, as criteria still need to be met, but it does loosen some of the red tape we have experienced to date. http://austintexas.gov/news/austin-travis-county-announcing-covid-19-public-testing-enrollment-form
- As required by City of Austin, masks should be worn in public for everybody > 10 – and we would add, for any kids < 10 who can tolerate them. Please wear a mask to your visit if at all possible.
- Well checks continue to be scheduled & we strongly encourage you to keep well checks! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57iAStTQOSA
- Our behavioral health team is standing by ready to help you if you or your kids are struggling with behavioral or anxiety issues – you are NOT alone during this unprecedented, incredibly disruptive time. Check out this helpful message from our psychologist & licensed professional counselor on staff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPsvTbgaJF8&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR0lrvOTAXBVmTCxWVnbWoXA0m7M9z3Ai8S5LI4I2MYqHoCg-C3OX8AsoN8
Wow, what a couple weeks, right??! We have loved seeing our families in the office for well checks, and it has been such a sweet reminder why we prioritize preventive and proactive health practices such as nutrition, vaccines, healthy activity and relationships. It’s essential that we don’t forget about those things. We also feel very fortunate that we have had no cases of COVID19, but we are watching out carefully.
It might help you know the efforts we are making to reduce the risk of infection in our offices. We’re listing the top 10, but honestly – it is an ongoing, constantly updated process so we make sure we are doing everything we make our office safe for all of us.
We’ve noticed that we are all suffering from information overload via email, scouring the professional articles for the latest information, and we think you might be too., so we’re going to be reaching out via short videos to make share important information. Hopefully our videography skills will match our medical expertise soon, but we beg your patience while we keep you up to date.
TOP 10 ways we are keeping our office SAFE for YOU!
- Only well children are allowed in the office in the morning. We pre-screen all families 1-2 days prior to the appointment and reschedule appointments if kids or families are ill.
- All sick visits are prescreened with telemedicine; if COVID19 symptoms are suspected, we arrange for testing off-site. This is true for our after hours clinics as well. If a child needs to be brought in, we may special arrangements for this by appointment. NO WALK-INs are accepted at this time.
- We have designated SICK rooms and do not place well children in them, even when they have been thoroughly cleaned, since it is not fully clear that “aerosol” spread is a serious risk.
- We surface clean after every single patient, and deep clean multiple times per week.
- All staff wear masks all day. All contact with patients is with gloves. All contact with patients with any symptoms of illness is with additional PPE including N95 masks (thanks to amazing donations from many of our patients & the Travis County Medical Society!)
- We have removed all toys and books from our office. It’s bare but sanitary!
- Lollipops & stickers are handed directly to the patient; no more rifling through the bucket.
- Patients that need testing for strep, etc. are greeted in their cars as appropriate, rather than bringing them into the clinic.
- We are not doing spirometry testing (asthma/lung function testing) until the risk is lower. We use nebulizer treatments sparingly for the same reason.
- Phreesia pads (the big yellow check-in tablets) are used minimally; surveys are done on paper and check-in procedures are pushed to patient mobile phones.
Tonight, the City of Austin will roll out the most restrictive measures yet to slow the spread of the COVID19 infection. Healthcare is an essential service, and we are OPEN to care for you and your family. What is also essential is that you continue to practice good hand hygiene and social distancing to reduce you and your children’s risk of coming into contact with the virus. Here are some additional measures our office is taking to keep you safe when you need care:
- All am visits are for exclusively well children. They are screened the night prior to the appointment and if they experience symptoms of illness, even if mild, the well child care is changed to sick care later the same day. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages us to keep well child care and vaccines current during this pandemic.
- Staff are wearing masks and gloves for any patient contact, even with well children. Our staff is screened for illness every morning.
- Hand hygiene is maximized, as is cleaning exam rooms. No toys/books, sad but necessarily.
- Telemedicine is working extremely well for the vast majority of visits, and if a child needs to be seen, we have in-person visits with our sick “team” of the day. Parents and kids are loving video chatting with their doctors from their play rooms, back yards, or dining room tables.
- On-line scheduling for telemedicine visits will be rolled out asap so you can request a telemed visit quickly & easily.
- Thank you so much for your donations of masks, even the hand-made ones! Adorable. Keep ’em coming if you can. Your donations have made it possible for our staff to stay on the job until manufacturing catches up.
Finally, a personal note from your doctors. The COVID19 pandemic is an unprecedented, global event, at least in our lifetime. It has served as a disruptor in so many ways, and has stirred up a great deal of fear. It has also shown us, again and again, why we chose Pediatrics. It is a real privilege to care for kids when they are hurt, uncomfortable, scared, or simply driving their loving parents insane. We have been touched by many well wishes, social media mask requests on our behalf, and the genuine affection and worry for our welfare you have poured out. We are doing everything we can to care for your families while keeping you, our staff and providers safe … so we can continue to care for your families. Thank you so much, SPA families!
- Keep your well child exam. Prevention and health care maintenance are critical during this time. We are scheduling ONLY well children in the mornings, Monday-Friday.
- Telemedicine is working GREAT for acute concerns. We will screen children via telemedicine first. If it can be handled over the telemed, it’s a done deal. If we need to bring your child into the clinic, we’ll make arrangements to do so. We will roll out online scheduling for telemedicine ASAP, but in the meantime, call our office and we’ll set up a telemedicine visit. No online scheduling for in-person visits and no walk-in visits so we can keep our patients and staff as safe as possible.
- We care about you guys. Please know we are HERE FOR YOU as we all figure this thing out. Together, we’ll find creative solutions and care for you when you feel most vulnerable.
- Thank you to all who have donated masks, have sent us well wishes, and those who have offered prayers for all medical professionals during this time. If you do have masks that you do not need, please consider donating them – supplies are critically low.
- COVID19 has turned our protocols upside down. It is critical that we keep the latest, and in fact ever changing, information in mind when we give you medical advice. What used to be standard advice for a simple cold takes on a whole new perspective now, doesn’t it! Because we want our advice to be accurate, the medical providers will be talking to you directly about your concerns much more often. We may schedule you a telemedicine visit or we may have one of our doctors or our nurse practitioner call you to discuss in more detail. Portal messages are another way to communicate with your provider more directly. Because we are not able to delegate these tasks to our employees, they will take more physician time and thus be subject to the appropriate fee schedule. These fees will be billed to your insurance plan as we always do. Quick refills and simple questions will always remain “free.” We hope you understand this rationale if you have any questions, please feel free to let us know.
Updated: March 18, 2020
Online scheduling for Extended Hours will be temporarily suspended. We understand that this is an inconvenience to our families, but we need to avoid potential exposure risks. Providers will assess patients throughout the day and if an in-person visit is required, we will schedule at that time.
Updated: March 16, 2020
We want to reassure our families that we are monitoring the rapidly changing Coronavirus situation and are following the recommendations from CDC and Austin public health officials. We would like to inform everyone of measures SW Pediatrics will be taking to protect our staff and families.
Beginning Monday, March 16th, we will be adjusting our schedules to minimize potential exposure risk for all of our patients. Morning appointments will be reserved for well child checks only. Our staff will begin calling on Monday to facilitate these necessary schedule changes.
To further protect our families, our office will now offer Telemedicine Services for sick visits. These appointments will be available in the afternoons only. Please call our office to schedule a telemedicine appointment. Once scheduled the staff will email you a link to access our telemedicine platform. We suggest joining the visit 3-5 minutes prior to the scheduled appointment time. You will then be waiting in a virtual waiting room until your doctor is ready to talk to you. It is important to have a good cellular connection or access to WIFI. If at the televisit your doctor thinks it is necessary for your child to come in for a real visit, we will arrange for it.
Patients using online scheduling for our Extended Hours and Saturday clinics will receive a call from a staff member to assess potential exposure risks. If a patient is identified as a potential exposure risk, you will be asked to stay home and a provider will reach out to further assess treatment options.
Updated: March 15, 2020