Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth visits to physicians have increased – and for many reasons, they will likely be part of medical care for the foreseeable future.
While it is not the same as a personal visit, I have found as a pediatrician that telehealth visits can be very useful. I can accomplish more than I expected while my patients can stay in the safety and convenience of their own home (or wherever they are – I did it where the patient was in a car or playing outside).
As I have done more and more of these visits, I have found that there are things that parents can do to get the most out of telehealth. Here are some helpful tips.
Software, lighting and connection management
- Make sure you have downloaded the software in advance and know how to use it. Take advantage of all the technical information and assistance that your medical office can offer you. A laptop or tablet allows, if possible, a wider view than a cell phone.
- Sit somewhere with a powerful and silent internet connection with good lighting. It will not be the best visit if you cannot see or hear yourself.
- Log in at least five to 10 minutes before the visit, in case of technical problems. If your doctor is ready early, you could even start early. It is also important to be on time, as it is more difficult for doctors to be late with video visits, so you may end up with a shorter visit if you are late.
Steps to Help You and Your Child Make the Most of Each Telehealth Visit
- Be prepared for the visit. Know what you want to cover. Have medicines on hand so you can show them to the doctor. If you can weigh your child, this is very useful (and also measure it, if it is a telehealth exam). If this is a sick visit, take your child’s temperature in advance.
- Let your child know what’s going to happen. Talk about it ahead of time and plan ahead, so they are ready (and not drawn from a nap or fun activity). You may only need it for a short part of the tour; unlike in-person visits, they may not do their job while you are talking to the doctor.
- Be prepared to help your doctor “examine” your child. Ask them to dress lightly in case you need to show the doctor something. Your doctor may also want to see your child move, so make sure there is room for this. I also asked the parents to press a child’s belly for me, so it is useful to have room for the child to lie down, even on the floor. An important note: if your child has a rash, take pictures to upload to your patient portal or show your doctor during the visit. I have found that the video often becomes blurred at close range, making it difficult for me to see smaller rashes.
- Tweens and teens may feel more comfortable talking to the doctor if you give them some privacy. They’re used to technology, but having them next to them can make them climb. Leave the room and do not listen at the door.
- Understand that not everything can be done virtually. At the end of some telehealth visits, I ended up saying that the child should come for a visit in person. Sometimes we really need a good physical exam or a laboratory test – or the child needs vaccinations. If you are concerned about going to the doctor’s office due to the pandemic, tell your doctor. Together, you can find the best way to get your child what he needs, while protecting everyone.
Ultimately, that is what telehealth visits are: another tool to help your child get what he needs to get and stay healthy. So if they are an option for you, use them!
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