April 16, 2020 03:04 pm News Staff – As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, so do the needs of family physicians. Across the country, AAFP members have shared their individual experiences and challenges in dealing with the crisis. One new physician, for example, spent days trying to secure much-needed personal protective equipment and other supplies for herself and her staff, while another FP described how she struggled to prepare her rural practice for the outbreak while continuing to provide vital services to the surrounding community, and how those community members gave back.
To meet the needs of FPs and their patients, the AAFP Foundation on April 13 announced the establishment of the AAFP Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. Money raised through the fund will be used to improve FPs' ability to continue providing safe, high-quality care to patients during the pandemic and into the future.
"Donors and supporters have reached out to the Foundation, asking how they can help," said AAFP Foundation President Julie Anderson, M.D., in a news release. "Donations to the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund can be designated to support specific Foundation programs or be applied to meet the most pressing needs of family physicians working on the front lines."
Telemedicine is one area where the fund may prove especially useful, Anderson noted.
"We already see a clear need to support and enhance efforts by the AAFP to expand telemedicine services to small, independent and rural practices that lack the resources to implement this important service for patients," said Anderson.
Several FPs have already shared their experiences transforming their practices, moving from providing patient care in the traditional in-person office setting to a virtual scenario in which they care for patients entirely via telemedicine. In fact, some FPs have used telemedicine to continue seeing patients even after contracting COVID-19 themselves.
The Academy has strongly advocated that telehealth options for FPs be expanded and has made a number of telemedicine and telehealth resources available to members.
The Foundation's relief fund is part of a multipronged response to the pandemic. According to Anderson, the Foundation also is providing emergency grants of $1,000 each to 49 free clinics throughout the United States that have received grants from Family Medicine Cares, the group's signature humanitarian program, to purchase durable or nondurable equipment or to assist with operational expenses.
Donations to the relief fund are currently being accepted. Anderson explained to AAFP News that donations can be directed to specific areas, such as Family Medicine Cares USA or telemedicine support, or they can be applied to address the greatest need at the time.
It's important to note, Anderson added, that because the needs of FPs may change in the coming weeks and months, flexibility in funding will be crucial. "We want to be prepared to tackle the challenges as they arise," she said.
Furthermore, Anderson noted, as needs develop, additional assistance may be provided in the form of educational programs or other Academy resources.
To donate, visit the AAFP Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund page. For more information, contact the Foundation.