Telehealth services start with your pediatrician
The American Academy of Pediatrics believes the best place for children to receive medical care is at a pediatrician's office. Telehealth services, or "virtual visits" with your pediatrician and pediatric specialists, may be an option to make sure your child continues to get the care he or she needs.
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when you are staying home and straying from regular routines, seeing your pediatrician is essential to keep up good physical and mental health. Here are some common questions parents may have about telehealth, and tips on working with your pediatrician to make sure your child receives the best care.
What is telehealth?
Telehealth is a tool with many benefits that can help connect your child to health care. It may use various technologies such as live, interactive audio and video, and special diagnostic tools. These services can be used in addition to in-person visits with a pediatrician or pediatric specialist.
Telehealth can provide health care services at times and places where families and caregivers may not usually be able to get those services. For example, pediatric specialists practicing in large cities can use telehealth to see children who live hundreds of miles away in small community emergency departments. Some pediatricians can also examine your child through your home computer.
What makes a good telehealth service for children?
Families and caregivers should understand what makes for a good telehealth service when deciding if it is right for their child. For example:
Telehealth should not replace your pediatrician. Good telehealth services work with your pediatrician. Your pediatrician may be the one seeing your child using telehealth, or they may have referred your child for a telehealth service with a pediatric specialist. If the visit was with someone other than your pediatrician, the telehealth provider should send your pediatrician information about the visit. But no telehealth service can take the place of your pediatrician -- your medical home -- who truly knows your child.
Telehealth providers should be trained to treat children. Children are not small adults. Telehealth providers should have the experience and training needed to know how to safely and correctly diagnose and treat your child's condition. It is a good idea to start with your pediatrician's office, where they are already familiar with your child and can easily review his or her health records.
The telehealth visit should be secure and private. The connection must be secure. Both the patient and the provider seeing your child should be in as private an area as possible so people who aren't supposed to be a part of the visit cannot see or hear it.
An adult should be present during the telehealth visit. Except in special situations when your child can legally consent to their own care, a parent or caregiver should be with your child during the telehealth service. During visits with adolescents or young adults, though, it is still a good idea to step out of the room when the doctor suggests so your child can practice taking more responsibility for their health care.
Telehealth care should include needed tests and examinations. Before a provider prescribes medications or other treatments, needed tests and exams should take place. For example, a provider who has never examined your child before will need to use an otoscope to look in your child's ear before prescribing antibiotics for an ear infection -- just as would happen during an in-person visit.
The providers should know when to convert virtual services to face-to-face visits. Sometimes, it may become clear your child is too sick to be cared for through telehealth. In these cases, your provider should know when and how to refer your child to the most appropriate health care facility.
Call your pediatrician first. Check with your pediatrician's office to ask if a telehealth visit is an option. Even if it's late at night, on a weekend or a holiday, someone will answer your call. They can advise you when you can visit with the pediatrician or can guide you to other services if they are not available.
If you have any questions about telehealth care for your child, talk with your pediatrician, or visit HealthyChildren.org for more information.
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics. To check out more information, visit HealthyChildren.org.