Infant and young child wellness checks are an important part of ensuring infants and toddlers have a great start to life.
“Wellness checks help care teams monitor the health and development of infants and toddlers,” said Abby Smolcich, MD, of ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Darboy. “These visits are a great opportunity to discuss any concerns parents might have about their child, such as eating/feeding issues, sleep schedules, growth and overall development.”
Much like health care systems across the country, during the initial response to COVID-19, ThedaCare made necessary adjustments to operations and services, including the deferment of non-urgent, elective surgeries and wellness visits, to keep our patients, communities and team members safe. At this time, ThedaCare is now scheduling wellness appointments.
“As providers, it’s important for us to see our young patients regularly to make sure they are growing and developing appropriately,” said Dr Smolcich. “We work closely with families to find the cause of any problems and implement interventions to prevent any effect on the child’s long-term health and development.”
The other big component of wellness checks is keeping infants and children up-to-date on their recommended vaccinations.
“In the first two years of a child’s life, they get several vaccinations,” Dr. Smolcich said. “The schedule ThedaCare follows has been studied and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other professional health organizations. This schedule is the most effective in terms of immune response and protection against the common viruses and bacteria that can be fatal to infants and young children, and/or affect their growth and development in the long term.”
Dr. Smolcich cited diseases such as measles, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and other diseases that can cause serious long-term health issues and also death.
“It’s especially important now, during the pandemic, to make sure we are protecting our children from diseases that have recently become active, such as measles, which became active again with an outbreak in Washington State in 2019,” she said. “We want to prevent those diseases from reemerging and causing health problems.”
Wellness Visits during the Pandemic
Dr. Smolcich advised families will notice some changes for wellness visits and other medical exams as ThedaCare team members have gone to great lengths to make our facilities safe so we can provide care for patients and families.
- Anyone who enters a ThedaCare facility will be required to wear a mask.
- Patients will be asked to maintain six feet social distancing from all other patients.
- For well-child visits, ThedaCare asks that only one parent/caregiver accompany the child and not bring other siblings. Exceptions will be allowed, but parents should discuss their concerns when scheduling the appointment.
- Everyone will be asked a series of screening questions about any possible exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and if they have any symptoms – cough, fever, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell or problems with vomiting or diarrhea. If those symptoms are present, the appointment should be rescheduled.
- Everyone will have their temperature checked; either via an ear probe or forehead scan, or in some cases, via an oral check. As long as their temperature is below 99.7 degrees F., they will be allowed to enter.
All ThedaCare Staffers will be Wearing Masks
She acknowledged that young children may have difficulty wearing a mask and/or interacting with staff who are wearing masks. She offered some suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
- Explain to your child why it’s important to wear a mask – to avoid spreading germs – and why other people are wearing masks. Make sure the mask covers the child’s nose and mouth.
- Wear your mask around your home and have children wear masks to practice and to become accustomed to wearing one.
- Create a reward system; give the child a treat for wearing the mask and for not touching it.
- Decorate the mask with the child’s favorite character or make a mask from material the child chooses.
- Explain that doctors and nurses will be wearing a mask just as mom or dad are, and that’s okay.
- Be prepared to offer extra comfort to the child during their medical appointment.
The AAP says the most important things parents can teach their children are to keep their hands away from their face and wash their hands often.
New Telehealth Opportunities
Dr. Smolcich explained the increased development of telehealth opportunities for patient care. Telephone visits and video visits are two such options.
“We have increased the capacity of our video and virtual visits to complement our face-to-face care,” she said. “While virtual visits continue to be a convenient and comfortable option for many patients, we realize that not everything can be treated remotely, and we want our patients to know we’re here for them if they need to be seen in person.”
Dr. Smolcich explained a telephone visit consists of the patient scheduling a normal appointment time with ThedaCare staff. At the appointed time, the provider calls the patient, confirms all identities and proceeds to discuss the patient’s concerns just as they would in an exam room. She noted that medication consultations, for example, might be an option for a telephone visit.
Video visits will follow a similar process. The patient will make a specific appointment time with a ThedaCare staff member. At the appointed time, a ThedaCare medical assistant will connect with the patient via the patient’s computer, iPad or other technology device. Using an iPad in the exam room, the medical assistant will gather preliminary information from the patient. Then the provider will enter the room, review the preliminary info and conduct the visit with a video connection just as they would in an exam room, minus the physical interaction.
Dr. Smolcich said some of the situations that seem appropriate for video visits include medication consultations, contraceptive counseling, allergy concerns, pink eye diagnosis, stomach flu issues, fevers of less than 24 hours and various follow-up consultations such as for allergy or asthma issues, acne concerns and feeding concerns for babies.
“This list will change as we get into the process further and figure out what works best as a video or telephone visit,” said Dr. Smolcich. “The response to COVID-19 has been a challenging time for all of us. We’re all learning and adjusting. Telehealth is a nice option for families to the care they need, in a different way. Our goal is to make the best health care easily accessible for our community.”
ThedaCare and Go Valley Kids are teaming up in 2020 to help families be healthier, more active and enjoy Northeast and Central Wisconsin.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to a community of more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs more than 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 locations including seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, New London, Shawano, Waupaca and Wild Rose. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health care organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.