The Doctor is (Virtually) In

Virtual doctor visits have grown in popularity, spurred mostly by the stay-at-home orders that were issued to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Even during a pandemic, people still need access to basic medical care, and online doctor visits allow patients to receive medical care and advice from the comfort and safety of their home, without having to visit a doctor’s office.

But how does virtual care work for children, and how do you know when a telehealth visit is right for your child’s particular situation? We asked the experts.

When to Use Virtual Visits

Virtual visits are a great way to connect to your child’s pediatrician or a nurse practitioner, especially when there are risks to being seen in person, such as during a pandemic.

“For things that can be easily described, such as recent side effects with a new medication, or shown in video or image, like a rash, those are ideal for video visits,” says Jen Ruschman, senior director at the Center for Telehealth at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “We use video visits at Cincinnati Children’s for specialty care and minor illnesses and injuries. It can be very convenient for families, and can provide necessary just-in-time care and reassurance.”

There are other times when virtual visits are necessary, such as when your child needs occupational, speech or physical therapy on a regular basis, but can’t visit their therapist’s office in person.

“Therapy needs to be consistent to gain progress. If we cannot open our clinic, we cannot just leave the children to lose progress,” says Jodie Reed, director of marketing at ABC Pediatric Therapy in Cincinnati. “Going without therapy can be a significant setback for your child. Teletherapy helps bridge that gap and gives them consistency and some sort of normalcy to their previous routine.”

When to Visit the Office

However, there are times when an in-person doctor visit is necessary. “For example, if we cannot examine a child’s ear, then it’s difficult to appropriately diagnose an ear infection,” Ruschman says.

Additionally, seeing your child’s primary care provider for well-visits are essential for children to stay up-to-date on vaccinations, and to appropriately monitor growth and development.

How to Prepare for a Virtual Doctor’s Visit

Just like an in-person visit, it’s a good idea to be prepared for your video visit. Ruschman offers these tips:

* Test your technology prior to your appointment time. Make sure your internet is up and running, and that your computer or mobile device is charged. Many doctor’s offices will provide you with a link or ask you to download an app in order to access the video conferencing feature. Make sure you download and test these things before your appointment time. If your internet connection is poor, move closer to your router and limit other internet traffic from your home.

* Write down your questions. To save everyone time and make the most of your virtual visit, write down what you want to discuss with your provider.

* Consider your setting. Place yourself and your child in a well-lit area.

* Keep your hands free. If you have a young child, use a car seat as a place to set down your infant safely so you can take notes and operate the computer or mobile device during the virtual doctor’s visit, or have another adult present.

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