Hesitancy over in-person healthcare appointments during the pandemic has not just been an adult problem.
According to a recent University of Oregon study, children’s medical schedules have been hit hard as parents have worried about their kids – and themselves – catching COVID-19 over the past year-plus. Seventy-eight percent of parents cited that fear as the primary reason they’d skipped their children’s pediatric visits or vaccinations since the pandemic’s start.
The study found that as of late 2020, 28% of over 7,000 families and caregivers surveyed had missed a well-child appointment during the pandemic, and an alarming 12% said their child had missed a scheduled vaccination.
While missed medical visits are problematic for any population, for children they can carry lifelong consequences, noted Dr. Jennifer Chambers, chief medical officer at Capital BlueCross.
“So this level of missed pediatric appointments is particularly troublesome,” Dr. Chambers said. “Seeing the pediatrician or family physician is the perfect opportunity to ask general questions and raise concerns about your child’s general health, development, and behavior.
“Of course if a child has a chronic condition that requires monitoring and regular medication or other treatment, the danger of missed visits is magnified even further. But these visits are important for all children. They’re vital for vaccinations, for discussing upcoming health issues, and for anticipating – and getting age-appropriate guidance for – your child’s growth.”
Children’s missed doctor’s appointments can translate into problems that parents take with them to the workplace, potentially hurting their mental wellness, concentration and productivity.
It’s important that employers understand the potential harm to employees’ children from missed visits to a family physician or pediatrician, and urge staff who are parents to maintain or resume their children’s full medical schedule. Through emails, newsletters, a more-formal campaign, a targeted meeting or a seminar, employers can remind parents on their staff of what’s at stake.
Capital BlueCross takes steps to help ensure pediatric appointment, vaccination, and medication schedules stay on track. The health insurer:
- Works with medical providers who participate in certain quality programs to alert them to any missed pediatric wellness visits in the last year, as well as to children who have missed specific vaccines.
- Reaches out during the summer through emails that send parents and guardians scorecards, which let them know when their children are missing a wellness visit or vaccine. These messages also contain other important pediatric-health information.
- Provides welcome newborn letters to new parents, with an enclosed, personalized schedule for wellness visits and vaccines.
- Sends monthly emails to parents and guardians of children who take ADHD medication, encouraging them to schedule follow-up visits with the prescribing doctors to ensure the medication has been safe and effective. That information is also shared with the child’s primary care physician.
“Pediatric appointments are perfect times for parents to discuss common concerns not only about their kids’ overall physical health, but about anything that impacts their well-being – eating, sleeping, social behaviors, and attention and learning issues,” Dr. Chambers said. “So please urge your employees by whichever means you can to continue or resume their children’s doctor visits.”