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Regional pediatric disaster network guides statewide telehealth initiation during COVID-19 pandemic

Brian S. Marcus, MD, Christopher Newton, MD, Sarah A. Rafton, MSW, Nancy Belcher, PhD, MPA, Jeb Shepard, BA, Milissa Chanice, BS, Todd Williams, BS, Hal Quinn, MD, Mary A. King, MD, MPH


Background: Telehealth emerged early as an important tool to provide clinical care during the COVID-19 pandemic, but statewide implementation strategies were lacking.

Needs assessment: We performed a needs assessment at 15 pediatrics clinics in Washington regarding their ability to institute telehealth. Fourteen clinics (93 percent response rate) responded; none had ability to perform telehealth visits. Clinics needed the following specific support structures: (1) an easily implementable, low-cost system, and (2) parity billing for telehealth services.

Disaster effort: Two weeks after the needs assessment was performed, we facilitated direct telehealth initiation support to 45 Washington clinics and created a coalition of statewide advocacy groups. These groups advocated for (1) a statewide solution for non-network or poorly resourced providers, which was delivered by the WA Health Care Authority, and (2) parity billing, which was delivered by emergency governor action.

Conclusion: Engagement with our regional pediatric disaster network was essential in providing guidance and expertise in this needs assessment, telehealth initiation process, and subsequent advocacy efforts. The power we have as pediatricians to coordinate with regional experts helped improve access to telehealth across Washington.


telehealth, COVID-19, disaster, network

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