Dr. Beth Harvey knows that pediatricians don’t often get the kind of spare time they’re experiencing mid-pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, her practice has set up telemedicine, applied for federal PPP funding, and addressed administrative tasks they had had little time to think of before. Despite the swift changes, however, Dr. Harvey and her colleagues at the South Sound Pediatrics in Washington hope that the challenges of providing care in a pandemic will make them a stronger, more efficient team.
About the Positivity in Pediatrics Series
This post is part of PCC’s Positivity in Pediatrics series, a collection of stories about pediatricians and pediatric offices who have stories to tell about how they are surviving and thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope their unique views can inspire you to practice in the way that best serves your community.
This week, Dr. Beth Harvey of South Sound Pediatrics in Washington state shares how the practice is meeting challenges with flexibility and care, making good use of spare time, and finding unique opportunities to deepen the relationship with their patients.
A Chance to Declutter
While plans for a spring remodel of the practice are put on hold until the summer, the practice is still finding plenty to do with their unprecedented spare time. They’ve focused on prevention -- first on immunizations for patients under two, then under five, then for 11 and 12 year olds. They’ve cleaned up their panels and checked that the state registry matches their records.
“We really focused on unifying our handouts in our rooms,” adds Dr. Harvey. “We're in the process of PCMH work and certification. As part of that, we're also using it to just restructure the rooms, clean them out, and unify our stock ordering.”
Mask-decorating and office themes are keeping up morale in the office while the staff work to organize their rooms, templates, protocols, and systems. Dr. Harvey hopes that these challenges and changes are bringing the office closer together.
"We've never been gifted with time before, so let's use it. I feel like our daily huddles are more constructive. Because we have integrated behavioral health at the practice, we've actually tried to deliberately incorporate some of their lessons on self care, mindfulness, working as a team, and how we treat each other. We’re trying to celebrate things together and list our accomplishments and be expressing gratitude to the community. And focus on those positive things. I do see our work areas and employees to be treating each other better and working as a team.”
A Light on Healthcare Access
Situated between three major cities in Washington, the pediatricians at the practice see families from both urban and rural communities, sometimes from as far as an hour away where rural healthcare sites have disappeared or aren’t available. Telemedicine helps, Dr. Harvey says, but it’s not as equal access as you might think. “Obviously some people have better broadband and wifi and tech connection capability than others. There are a few people we've had to actually do telephone visits with, just because that's all you’ve got.”
For some families, accessing wifi or purchasing minutes on a cell phone plan isn’t in the cards for them financially. Luckily, the practice has been able to help. “One of the telephone companies donated a bunch of iPhones to the healthcare authority,” Dr. Harvey says. “So we have a small number of phones we've been able to distribute to people that have loaded minutes on them.”
Telemedicine Brings Healthcare Home
The team in Washington brought telehealth to the practice in a matter of a single weekend, but after making the switch, the physicians are all fans.
“Some of our visits have been so enlightening,” says Dr. Harvey, “Because you are in someone's home. You pick up on all of these weird environmental things that you've had no clue about. The chaos in the home, the environment they live in, the dynamics of how different kids are treated. Just based on the space they have in the house. Also, it's been quite delightful, most of us have just been having so much joy having the kids show us stuff. They are like, ‘Here's my dog and here's my new bike and here's my yard. Let me show you my slide!’ I think they're so tickled to have contact and show it off. It's just so fun.”
When asked if the team will continue with telemedicine and decluttering post-pandemic, Dr. Harvey is sure they will. She also expresses hope for the future:
“I think we're going to be less cluttered, we're going to be more organized. My hope is, it's going to just make things when we're busier again, less stressful. My hope is we'll look back and go, ‘I guess we made the most of that!’ My hope is on the other end of this, that maybe as a society we'll treat each other better, treat the environment better. Just be happier with the simpler things.”
Whether you’re using spare time to declutter, address recall lists, or solidify your practice as a team, be sure to check out the webinars hosted by Pediatric Management Institute’s Paul Vanchiere and PCC’s Chip Hart for advice on HR, revenue, business practices, morale, and lots more. Check out their ongoing webinar series for the latest updates and practice management recommendations.