How much fun is dragging a sick child out of the house, trekking to your pediatrician’s office and waiting to be seen? Probably not on many parents’ top 10 list of family activities. While there is certainly no replacement for a physician’s physical exam, telehealth can be an important supplement toward attaining the best care for your child. The ongoing pandemic and public health concern has highly influenced the increased use of telemedicine, which has demonstrated its quite helpful role in assessing acute care issues and health surveillance of certain conditions. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises all children receive well child exams and immunizations through a medical office, however utilizing telehealth for common pediatric complaints may be a wonderful additional asset in order to maintain quality medical care for children.
Telehealth in a practical sense, is the method of exchanging medical advice through the use of technology. Here at My Virtual Physician, it is easy to set up an appointment to “see” a physician through our online platform, after answering the text prompt on our homepage. In some cases, telehealth also encompasses the use of special diagnostic equipment. It is private, and typically hassle-free when you consider the lack of commute time and being able to talk to a physician from the comfort of your living space. In particular for pediatrics, telehealth allows for the presence of both caretaker and child, which is sometimes difficult given conflicting work schedules or occasional need for a third party to bring a child to the office. Another perk is the lack of exposure to others’ germs that are also common visitors in office waiting rooms. One of the best uses for telehealth discovered during the pandemic, is the increased access to physician care. Many specialists are overbooked, however often times, given the flexibility that telehealth allows, they are able to accommodate telehealth appointments into their busy schedules more easily. This allows for more patients to be seen, when an ordinary wait for an appointment could be several months away. In the same light, through telehealth, underserved or rural areas are provided a way to more quickly access care without the burden of travel expenses.
A physical exam is one of the most important aspects to establish a diagnosis for most patients and especially in pediatrics, however many common conditions in children can be “seen” virtually. Some of these include cough and cold symptoms, gastrointestinal complaints like constipation, rashes, allergies, medication management, and depression/anxiety. Sometimes follow up visits from an emergency department can also be done via telehealth. These issues rely heavily on another key component to appropriate diagnosis: an accurate history. It is imperative to provide details of the complaints, including time of onset, any improvement or worsening, as well as additional symptoms, recent travel, past health problems and sick contacts. Fortunately, these are questions that can be answered in conversation over a communication platform.
Parental and caregiver guidance, often given within the context of an office visit, is unique to pediatrics and is another important avenue in which telehealth in this population can be incredibly helpful. Whether asking questions about newborn feeding, normal developmental behavior, screen time, school readiness, bath and swim safety, dental hygiene, prepubertal and adolescent concerns, immunization worries or just seeking advice on how to maintain a positive connection with your child, telehealth is a tool that can provide a safe and relatively efficient way of finding helpful answers from a pediatric expert.
There are some diagnoses that should be referred to an in-person physician. Fever, for example, is one of the most common reasons children visit their doctor. Many times this can be discussed via telehealth initially and often reveals itself to be a symptom of an illness that will pass in time. However, there are instances where telehealth is not sufficient and the child should be seen in an office for a closer look, such as when a newborn has a fever. Likewise, a cut that might require stitches as well as an injury where there is question of a broken bone or significant pain would need more than an initial televisit. It should also be noted that any condition, in which the child is having trouble breathing, is difficult to arouse or wake or is generally having worsening complaints, an in-person visit would be likely more appropriate.
As mentioned above, there really is no adequate replacement to having a physician’s exam, but telehealth certainly affords many safe conveniences that can be practical in pediatrics. Visit My Virtual Physician to learn more about how our board certified pediatricians can help you and your child!