Pediatric Telemedicine: Just What the Dr. Ordered?
With COVID-19 still in full force, many parents are opting for telehealth visits to avoid risky exposure to the virus in doctors’ offices. It makes sense. COVID is reported to be highly contagious and seems to affect everyone a bit differently. No one wants to get sick, but life goes on and people still need to see their doctors, even during a pandemic.
When it comes to children, pediatric telemedicine is relatively new. Most parents just feel better when their pediatrician actually sees their children in person. How else can they thoroughly examine your child? It’s actually not as difficult as you might think. In fact, there’s a lot of information your pediatrician can gather from a telemedicine visit in order to make the correct diagnosis.
Just as parents are trying to get comfortable with the whole pediatric telemedicine thing, providers are learning how to provide excellent care virtually. While there are some cases where a child needs to be physically seen by their pediatrician, there are quite a few instances where pediatric telemedicine is just what the doctor ordered.
What You Can Expect with a Pediatric Telemedicine Visit
While research thus far shows that children are less prone to COVID-19, many parents don’t want to take any chances. If you’re one of them, you may be wondering how you can still get the answers you’re looking for and the treatment your child needs without putting them at risk. That’s where pediatric telemedicine comes in.
When you think of telemedicine, you may think your children are too young for a virtual provider’s visit. You might be right if they were to go at it alone. But with a parent or caretaker involved, children can receive equally good care virtual as they would in an office setting. Here’s how parents can help their child’s provider get everything they need to properly diagnose and treat a medical issue.
Just as with a physical visit, your provider will want to better understand the purpose of the telemedicine visit. Even if you complete a questionnaire before the visit, they will ask you (and if your child is able, ask them) what the situation is. Sore throat? Rash? Fever? The pediatric telemedicine visit is the time to lay it all out on the table so your provider can make an accurate assessment.
Be prepared with a scale to take your child’s weight, a thermometer, and any medications or supplements they are taking.
Even if your child has seen their provider in the recent past, their weight may have changed. Weight not only allows your provider to determine whether they are on track or if they have gained or lost more weight than normal, but it will also help them determine medication dosing if they need to prescribe.
We’re all used to getting our temperature taken in a doctor’s office, and with COVID-19, we can hardly go anywhere without a quick temperature check. Your provider will likely ask you to take your child’s temperature and report it to them as one of the first things they do during the telemedicine visit. Make sure you have an accurate thermometer. If your child is less than 3 months old, you’ll want a rectal thermometer to make sure the temperature is as accurate as possible. If they’re older than 3 months, it doesn’t matter if it is the digital under-the-tongue thermometer or the increasingly popular forehead-touch thermometer. As long as it provides an accurate reading within a tenth or so of a degree, you will be good.
From head to toe, your pediatrician can leverage pediatric telemedicine technology to care for your child. If your child is ill or needs to check in with the provider after an illness or taking medications, your provider can conduct a thorough visit from your device.
We all know well the dry wooden stick used to press down our tongues. Your child’s provider won’t assume you have one, but they may ask you to send a picture of the back of your child’s mouth. Depending on the quality of your camera, they may be able to see your child’s throat in real time during the visit.
While rashes can seem scary to the untrained eye, you might be surprised to know that many of them are relatively easy to diagnose just from looking at them. Poison ivy, hives, bug bites, rashes from viruses, eczema, and other skin irritations often have telltale signs your provider will be able to see from your device’s video. They will likely ask you to either text them a picture of the affected area or they will ask you to focus your camera on the area so they can see it themselves live.
Pink eye, a.k.a. conjunctivitis, is the most common eye problem in children. You may notice it right away when the white’s of your child’s eye turns bright pink. Your provider will be able to look at your child’s eye during your pediatric telemedicine visit and quickly diagnose it - no in-person visit required. If it doesn’t present as typical conjunctivitis, your provider may either be able to diagnose it as something else or suggest an in-person visit.
Some respiratory infections have symptoms your child’s provider can diagnose via a telemedicine visit. Although they can’t listen to the lungs directly, they can observe your child’s breathing to help understand if the breathing is labored. They’ll want to do this in good lighting with your child’s shirt completely off.
Some abdominal issues can be diagnosed simply by asking you and/or your child a few questions. During the pediatric telemedicine visit, your child’s provider will want to know from where the pain is originating, if the pain is dull or acute, whether there is accompanying gas, diarrhea, constipation or vomiting, and other similar questions. If it’s something more serious, you can rest assured your provider will recommend an in-person visit.
Greater Convenience and Access
Both providers and patients are having to get used to a new “normal,” altering our habitual in-office visits to virtual pediatric telemedicine visits for some cases. These visits may not be ideal for every situation, but parents can rest assured their child can get proper care from the safety and convenience of their home.
Whether you aren’t ready to go into a doctor’s office until COVID-19 is no longer a risk or you simply like the convenience of having the doctor come to you, check with your provider to see if they offer pediatric telemedicine visits. Once you realize the benefits of telemedicine, you may never want to go back to crowded waiting rooms again.