Telehealth has become an indispensable tool for reaching health care providers — not just over the course of the pandemic but for more than a decade previous. As technology has improved, so have resources for connecting patients and providers, and thanks to the rapid development of telehealth solutions, so many patients have gained unprecedented access to health care professionals over the past few years.
However, telehealth isn’t perfect. One major flaw is that many of the populations most in need of health services are less capable of using advanced technology to connect with providers. While some solutions have been developed to assist senior patients with telehealth platforms, the same isn’t exactly true for another group in need: children.
In their first 10 years of life, children are expected to visit the doctor more than 24 times for vaccinations and well-child exams; those 24 visits do not include the times that children will fall sick and require diagnosis and treatment, which could number as many as 10 times per year. Because many of these visits are not urgent and do not require hands-on testing from providers, parents should have the option to schedule virtual appointments.
Unfortunately, the typical telehealth experience doesn’t exactly suit parents and children. Here are a few ways online pediatricians can improve their telemedical practices to make virtual visits better for parents and kids.
Choose Straightforward Telehealth Platforms
If there is one thing that pediatric health care providers can do to make telehealth a more straightforward experience for their patients and parents, it is making an informed decision about the telehealth platform they use. While telehealth services have been available for many years now, some have focused on the user-friendliness of their services while others remain as complicated and clunky as software from 2005.
Pediatric providers should vet the telehealth platforms they utilize by going through the process of making an account, scheduling an appointment, conducting a virtual visit and more from the patient’s point of view. Then, they can have a better sense of what is required of patients, help guide patients through the process and — most importantly — select a platform like everydaydoctor.com, which is more intuitive for everyone to use.
Teach Parents How to Take Certain Health Measurements Beforehand
Essentially every visit to the pediatrician’s office requires providers to take certain measurements, which help them determine that a child is within a range of health at current and future appointments. Some pediatric providers like to collect this data even during virtual visits, which requires parents to have the tools and know-how to take these measurements on their own.
Even if parents don’t initially show any interest or intention in engaging with telehealth, it is a good idea for providers to teach parents how to take accurate health-related measurements of their children. Providing a short list of useful tools, like a soft measuring tape, a thermometer and an accurate scale, and offering tips during the data collection process in the office can go a long way to gathering correct information during virtual visits.
Help Parents Engage the Kids in the Appointment
During in-person appointments, children can be difficult to manage; both parents and providers need to engage the patients to allow the visit to go smoothly, without tears or tantrums. The same is true for telehealth — except that kids are even more likely to become unruly when interfacing with a screen. As tempting as it might be to connect solely with parents, it is crucial for providers to speak directly with their young patients, if only for a portion of the appointment. Showing the right body language and asking the child direct questions about themselves, their symptoms, their interests and other issues will keep squirmy little ones more active in the visit.
Keep the Visit Short and to the Point
Most often, parents opt for telehealth thanks to its convenience, so dragging a virtual visit out longer than necessary won’t win providers any points. Instead, telehealth appointments should be as direct as possible — without compromising care, of course. Balancing digital bedside manner (sometimes called webside manner) with the need for expediency can be an acquired skill, so providers might want to take a dedicated telehealth class or practice on colleagues before offering services to their patients.
Telehealth is an excellent solution for helping to connect patients and providers — but sometimes, providers need to take a few extra precautions to ensure their patients are appropriately cared for in a virtual setting. Parents and children have unique health needs that require pediatric providers to think more critically about their telehealth services, but that doesn’t mean they can’t offer virtual visits. With the right preparation from providers and parents, it is possible to have a successful telehealth pediatric appointment.