JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Doctors' offices across the First Coast are changing the way they see patients due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Annie Egan, a pediatrician with the Carithers Pediatric Group in Jacksonville, said her practice has now divided its two locations. One location is for well patients, and the other is for sick patients who are being checked in curbside and then seen in their cars.

“One of our nurses checks them in and does a temperature check through the window, and then one of our providers approaches the car and does a history through the window,” Egan explained. “Then we man our masks and goggles and protective equipment and examine patients either in their cars or on one of our exam tables under a tent outside. That way we are not allowing any sort of viral transmission to happen within our office walls.”

Patients at Carithers Pediatric Group are checked in curbside
Patients at Carithers Pediatric Group are checked in curbside
Carithers Pediatric Group

At the well office location, patients are also being checked in curbside and then taken directly to an exam room so that there is no lingering in waiting rooms or at the front desk.

“We’re doing that to minimize the risk of transmission,” Egan said. “At our well office we are still seeing newborns and children who are due for well visits. We want to make sure that children get appropriately vaccinated so when we come out of this self-isolation time, they're not at risk for the other contagious diseases that vaccinations prevent. So, we are fully operational at that office.”

Protective gear worn at pediatrician's office
Protective gear is being worn at Carithers Pediatric Group
Carithers Pediatric Group

Like many practices, Carithers Pediatrics is now offering telemedicine visits for patients who don't need to be seen in the office.

“Two weeks ago, we had talked about telemedicine, but that at that time insurance companies weren't paying for it so we were not signed up,” Egan said. “In the last 10 days we have turned our practice into the most accessible, virus-free, full-service great patient care operation that we could make.”

As for concerns about picking up germs, she said if you child is sick, your pediatric office is probably one of the safest places for them to be seen.

“We are disinfecting every surface between every patient," Egan said. "We are minimizing how people social isolate. So, in other words that is safer than many trips I would say to your supermarket. If your child is sick, they should be seen because we don't want ear infections to go untreated. We don't want pneumonia to be undiagnosed. We don't want other illnesses that can be treated appropriately with antibiotics not to be addressed.”

Children can get COVID-19, so Egan said it's important for any child who has a cough or difficulty breathing to be assessed, but make sure you call your doctor's office first. She wants to remind parents that this pandemic can be stressful not only for adults but for kids too.

“For children to be healthy they need to be able to continue to play and laugh and connect with their friends, whether that's through social media or by waving across the street,” Dr. Egan said. “They still need to be and it's an environment where they feel loved, appreciated and joyful.”

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