July 2021 marks an almost 18 month journey through COVID. We have witnessed and personally experienced the loss of human lives due to the coronavirus. We have experienced significant shifts in workload and scope of practice and have felt the financial hardship that this pandemic has brought to our specialty. We have all experienced the void of social interaction, and the economic downturn in our communities, and witnessed that in America, and around the globe. In America, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel with reduced cases, vaccinations, and relaxation or lifting of restrictions. However, many countries are not nearly as fortunate.
So we continue to live in a transition from ‘pandemic mode’ back to ‘life as it was’ prior to 2020. Or will it ever be a ‘back-to-normal society’ as we once knew it? Regardless of where we land, the transition remains long and still filled with challenges. Otolaryngology as a specialty was one of the most affected with losses in 2020 just under 30% based on an AMA review of all specialties. Federal aid helped in 2020 to keep practices open, but we are not out of the woods yet. We still face the persistent reduction of patient office visits, a reduced surgery schedule, and hiring and maintaining qualified staff to name a few. Even as my practice opens up, office visits have increased, but surgical volume is still reduced, and allergy patient volume has not recovered.
We recognize the issues that our members still face as it relates to education, advocacy, and now the additional rebuilding of our practices and financial burden caused by COVID.
Our mission remains to support our membership, offering educational opportunities and tools now in new and helpful formats with online access reducing financial burden and time commitment for members.
Our educational leadership continues to deliver cutting edge content in a unique way. We have shifted all 2021 meetings to innovative, virtual meeting formats through the annual meeting this year. We continue to offer educational opportunities in the areas of biologics, SCIT and SLIT, the interplay of allergy to other inflammatory disease, and vital practice management to help rebuild. We released off-cycle educational content with two courses useful for obtaining CME and for training office staff. We just aired our new and creative “Virtual Basic Course” earlier in July. We continue to engage with medical industry to create an opportunity for our members to interface with these companies but in a virtual format instead of a live exhibit hall.
We have launched a “Just in Time’ zoomcast series on current topics with panel discussions throughout this past year and moving forward. We still offer a number of other member benefits through our website, including the Practice Resource Toolkit, Clinical Care Statements, Clinical Insights modules, and a USP 797 Compliance Module. Our CME can be applied toward Lifelong Learning and Self-Assessment (PART II) requirements for ABO-HNS. We pursue advocacy efforts both at the AMA and through our socioeconomic committee intervening with payor issues, and interfacing with other sister organizations to strengthen our cause.
I want to acknowledge the stress and fatigue experienced by our members from a demanding work schedule in addition to what seems like endless zoom meetings. We have not mitigated that issue with a more robust digital presence this year despite the convenience and financial benefits that offered. However, it has been the best way for us to continue serving our members through this pandemic and likely will continue in some format as we ‘return to normal’. For those desiring face-to-face connection, I do invite you to attend a live Advanced Course planned for Jan 2022 in Sante Fe, New Mexico as a chance to connect with friends and a time to get away while still fostering professional development.