COVID-19: What is an allergist to do?

March 23, 2020

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” Those immortal words were written by patriot Thomas Paine in the American Revolution. When thinking about the American Revolution, or even the perils of World War II that the Greatest Generation faced, our challenge looks tiny by comparison. But indeed, these are the trials that test what we are made of. I commend my fellow College members and the staff of the College who have worked tirelessly to keep us up to date and provided needed data. We have great information available on our Coronavirus webpage, which we are updating regularly as new information becomes available. 

So, what ARE we to do? First, there is no “one size fits all” solution. What we do will vary greatly by regional and local spread of the virus and type of allergy practice. What is prudent for a large academic institution will likely not work for a community based private practice. The solution for a private practice will not work for a hospital-based or military practice. The measures I am taking in my office change every day, and probably will continue to change daily. DocMatter has been a great forum for us to discuss our different approaches in dealing with office issues in this pandemic. 

Many are suggesting we suspend non-essential medical services. I believe our services ARE essential because research shows we keep asthmatics out of the hospital. By keeping outpatient allergy services open, fewer people will need emergency care this spring. Each allergist will need to make decisions for their practice based on their own individual circumstances. 

I also want to commend the Advocacy Council’s work in this crisis. We were among the first to call on insurers to allow telephone visits with removal of HIPPA requirements. Our request went to Health and Human Services Secretary Azar and Vice President Pence, and we are seeing results. We have resources to help you bill telemedicine visits. The College is providing a webinar tomorrow on how to use telemedicine in the COVID-19 pandemic. Our webinar from last week provided us with a scientific update

Finally, I want to encourage EVERYONE to remain positive. I know you are tired and want this crisis to be over; I am too. Remember, we set the tone in our practices and often in our communities. If we remain optimistic, our coworkers will also be positive. While we want to avoid spreading the virus, I want us to spread the “contagion” of a good attitude! I ask you to CHOOSE to intentionally be positive with patients, staff, and the public. Just like you, I look forward to the time when this is in our rearview mirror, and we can resume normal activity. Until then, our patients and our communities are counting on us to remain calm, confident, and encouraging. And remember — the College is your partner to help you weather this storm. 

J. Allen Meadows, MD, FACAAI
College president