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Question

Can telehealth “video visits” be a good option for my child? How do they work?

Alison Curfman, MD, FAAP

Answer

A child's medical care is best provided face-to-face. In certain situations, however, video visits and other telehealth tools used by your pediatrician's office (also known as your “medical home") can be a good option. For some families, it can provide access to high-quality pediatric services they could not otherwise get.

Telehealth is being used in a variety of places and settings, including:

Hospitals

If your child needs a pediatric service but it's not available in your area, telehealth can connect you with a specialist remotely.​

  • Emergency situations. Many areas, like rural communities, do not have doctors onsite who are trained to treat children in an emergency. When this happens, telehealth services give immediate access to pediatric specialists in other communities who can help the medical staff stabilize and treat children before they are transported to a pediatric center or children's hospital.

  • Outpatient visits. If your child has a health issue but you live far away from their specialist, you may be able to visit a local hospital and connect remotely with the doctor to receive care without having to travel long distances.

  • Special services. In some areas, video visits are being used for physical therapy, speech therapy, hearing screenings, nutrition counseling and other special services that might otherwise require long trips by children and their parents.

Schools

Some communities offer telehealth services in their schools. These programs have tools for the school nurse to have a video visit with a doctor or nurse practitioner to diagnose and treat issues like ear i​nfections, strep throat, sprained ankles​, and common colds​. Parents can be included on the visit as well. These virtual visits help the school nurse know when children need to be seen in person by their pediatrician or in the emergency room.

At home

This type of telehealth is being used more often as a way to see your pediatrician for certain exams that don't require an in-person visit. You can use your own device such as a smartphone, tablet or computer to connect to your pediatrician to diagnose and treat common, non-urgent conditions. There are many companies that offer these services, but not all of them are certified in pediatrics. Ask your pediatrician's office if they offer telehealth services.

​How does a video visit work?

During a video visit, the doctor can see your child and ask you about their symptoms, just like in a face-to-face visit. Your child can be examined via video, using tools such as:

  • Smartphones, tablets and computers. Any device with a camera and internet or WiFi connection can be used for telehealth. Hospitals and schools usually have high-quality cameras to ensure the most accurate exam. For home-based telehealth, you can use the camera on your own device.

  • Stethoscopes. Hospital-based and school-based telehealth programs will have stethoscopes for your doctor to listen to your child's heart and lungs remotely. These types of tools may be available soon for home use as well.

  • Otoscope. This tool is used to look inside your child's ears and help diagnose ear infections.

  • Ultrasound and other imaging. Hospital-based programs can even transmit images such as ultrasound for a pediatric specialist to see remotely.

Video visits also make it possible for the doctor to look at your child's activity level, breathing, interaction and general state of health. If the doctor thinks the video visit is not giving them enough information to diagnose your child, they may recommend you come into the office or go to urgent care or the emergency room.

Remember

Telehealth video visits can be good for children. To be sure you are getting good care, avoid telehealth providers that are not trained to treat children. Choose a provider who has the training and tools necessary to diagnose and treat your child, and who has an established relationship with your family. Your pediatrician should always be your first choice when seeking telehealth services.

More Information:

Alison Curfman, MD, FAAP

​Alison Curfman, MD, FAAP, is an executive committee member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Telehealth Care. Dr. Curfman is also a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Mercy Clinic in St. Louis and serves as Medical Director for pediatric virtual care within the Mercy Hospital system. She is co-founder and Vice-Chair of SPROUT, a multi-center research network dedicated to high quality pediatric telehealth research. She is co-author of the chapter “Pediatric Emergency and Critical Care Telemedicine” within the textbook Understanding Telehealth.

Last Updated
4/28/2021
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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