To our Pediatric Patients and Families:
We have been through a lot together over the past year. I recall leaving my practice at Watertown on March 20, 2020, not knowing when, exactly, I would be back physically in the office. It was surreal and anxiety-provoking, and at that time, it was impossible to fathom the full impact that the pandemic would have on our work, family life, education and our physical and emotional health.
At Atrius Health, we had to quickly limit in-person care to infants and young children who required vaccines to prevent avoidable secondary outbreaks. At the same time we turned our attention to learning how to meet with you via telemedicine. Though we could not always get accurate measurements, and sometimes internet connections froze or disconnected us, we persevered and got to spend time with you and your families. We met with you by video visit or phone wherever you happened to be – in bed, in the backyard, in a parked car, and at work. It has not been typical medicine, but we were so happy to be connecting with you.
By mid-summer, we were back to in-person, with lots of practice enhancements to keep you and our staff safe. Traffic flows in the practice were altered, safety plexiglass was installed, seats in waiting rooms were removed, guests were limited, and greeters were stationed at our front doors to evaluate visitors coming to the practice and to provide you with new masks. While greeting you wearing our personal protective equipment was not always as welcoming as we’d like, we are proud to say that our efforts worked, and we have had no in-practice transmission of COVID-19 at any of our sites.
Yet “safe” and “well” have not meant the same thing at all during this pandemic. Families have been dealing with the stress and struggles of remote learning, a lack of social gatherings, loss of sports and arts activities, and a constant barrage of endless reports of new COVID-19 cases and deaths. And worst of all, some of us have lost family members to COVID-19 without the ability to come together to support one another. The uncertainty and the isolation has taken a toll on all of us. Our care teams have been attending to symptoms of anxiety, depression or both in a frequency we have never seen before.
I am writing to let you know that we are here for you, and through our safe care practices, we want to help you restore your health and wellness once again. Make sure you have your annual physical in 2021, especially if you were not seen in 2020. This is critical so that we can make sure your growth is on track, any on-going issues are attended to, and you remain current for all vaccines to prevent avoidable illnesses. We can also address any emotional challenges you may have been experiencing and connect you with mental health resources and provide counseling and/or medication if needed. We also want to see those of you with asthma to make sure your care is appropriate, up to date and protective. The return to in-person education and sports activities may trigger asthma flares despite having been healthy at home. If you (like so many of us) have not been as physically active during the pandemic as before, we can work together to make a plan that will improve your health and fitness. If you had COVID-19, we want to see you to make sure you are able to exercise safely and to determine whether you need any follow up testing as is recommended for patients that had moderate or severe cases of COVID-19.
Remember, too, that we are here for you in the way you want to be cared for. We would love to see you in person if that is needed and what you desire. Given our extensive experience with video visits, we can also see you virtually if preferred and appropriate for your health needs.
Despite the challenges of the past year, all of us at the Atrius Health Pediatrics aim to continue our mission of providing the right care with kindness and compassion every day for every person we serve.
Thank you for the confidence and trust you have placed in us. We hope to see you soon.
Stay healthy and safe,
Dan Slater, MD
Executive Chair, Pediatrics, Atrius Health
Medical Director, MassHealth ACO
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics, Part Time, Harvard Medical School