President’s Corner

Sheryl Beard, MD, FAAFP, Andover

KAFP President’s Letter

Our Practices Change During Pandemic

The country and world are awestruck by the novel coronavirus. I have no doubt that all of our members are serving their patients on the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic. Family physicians are what this pandemic needs. Please know that the KAFP and AAFP continue to work on your behalf during these stressful times. If you have not already done so, check out the KAFP and AAFP for resources for family physicians:

KAFP: https://kafponline.org/COVID-19

AAFP: https://www.aafp.org/patient-care/emergency/2019-coronavirus.html

The number of COVID-19 cases is rising, and the number of deaths is rising too. The statistics are constantly changing and by the time you read this, any information I provide will be outdated. As we speak, travel is being banned, conferences are being canceled, Kansas medical schools are continuing with education virtually and without patients, and Americans are being mandated “shelter in place” orders. Healthcare professionals continue to provide essential and needed care. When patients are limiting their exposure to others, we continue to serve them. Illness seems to carry on despite a pandemic. A 53-year-old walks into my clinic with chest pain and needs an evaluation. A 56-year-old cut her finger on the quilting machine and needs sutures. A 41-year-old is having increasing anxiety amid all the unknowns of our future. Amidst it all, we still have a duty to serve our patients no matter their presentation.

Although we still have patients to see, physician practice volumes are being cut in half by many “stay at home” mandates. Patients are not only staying at home to keep themselves safe, but they are staying away from the physician office, knowing that is where sick people go. In my practice, we have also seen volumes drop. We have always had the opportunity in my office to offer virtual visits, but that practice has exploded in the last few weeks. Providing a virtual visit does take some getting used to. Some things I have found myself frequently asking is, “Can you put your camera closer to your mouth? Can you move that camera to the spot on your foot? Take a big deep breath for me and blow out hard and fast. Move closer to the window so I can see that rash better.” Switching from in-person office visits to virtual, resulting in only seeing my patients on a screen has been a challenge. But it is what is best for the patients and our staff. Patients actually love it and appreciate that they do not have to leave their homes to see the doctor (and potentially expose themselves to illness).

The virtual meeting concept has been around for a while. For over a year, the KAFP has been using a virtual platform for some of our board meetings, so the virtual concept is growing. What else is the KAFP doing during this time? We are still meeting as an executive team (virtually of course). We are still meeting as a board (virtually again). We are still moving forward with things that are important to you. We would like to know what we can do for you during these stressful times. And we’ve had to make tough decisions to protect our membership. This includes canceling Fam Med Forward 2020 and moving our member meeting and board leadership election online. I know you all understand that all decisions are very fluid at this point, and I appreciate your patience with us.

Another item I would like to bring to your attention is that your Academy leadership is having discussions about doing more KAFP business electronically. These electronic practices could include voting for officers and other members of the board. This could also include voting to change bylaws. Right now, our bylaws state that to change bylaws, we do that with an in- person vote at the annual meeting. How nice would it be in times like these to be able to do more electronic business! There will be more to come on this.

As I said in my last president’s letter, medicine is changing. Medicine is changing this time in a completely different direction. This time it is changing faster than we can even get a handle on. Please let us know how we can continue to serve you during these tough times and know that my thoughts and prayers are with all of you as we work through this pandemic together. Thank you for the work you do and the service you provide to your patients and communities. It is a privilege to serve all of you in this role.

Stay Well,

Sheryl Beard, MD, FAAFP
President