How Pediatric Telehealth Is Enhancing Healthcare

By Christine Elliott, Business Development Associate

Imagine this: It’s Thanksgiving and a mother is in the middle of preparing a feast for 20 beloved family members when her first grader suddenly starts complaining of an ear ache.  There’s a turkey in the oven, two other children are destroying the just cleaned house, and her husband is picking up the in-laws from the airport.  Great time to pile everybody in the car and head to urgent care, right?

If you’re shaking your head, eyes wide with fear, you’re not alone. In fact, some of the most prominent pediatric health systems in the US have started to offer telehealth services for the entire family.  The use cases are endless, but here are a few key ways pediatric telehealth is delivering great benefit today.

Urgent care is now online

Nemours Children’s Health System just partnered with American Well on its virtual visit platform, available on web or mobile, to eliminate situations like the one described.  Nemours CareConnect allows families to connect with a Nemours board-certified physician, day or night, from the comfort of their own homes.  Mom or Dad can forget the stress surrounding a doctor’s visit and instead focus on getting their little one better.  Typical urgent care scenarios that CareConnect addresses are allergies, abdominal pain, cold or flu symptoms, and rashes.

The doctor will see you…in the nurse’s office

It’s no secret that kids are prone to getting hurt at school – from the germs floating on tables and chairs to breaking bones during recess, the nurse’s office is often the busiest place on campus.  Despite the expertise of most school nurses, parents are often called out of work or other duties to pick up sick kids and tote them to the doctor,  taking parents away from busy work days and pulling kids out of class. Children’s Medical Center of Dallas is looking to change this reality by placing mobile telehealth carts in the nurse offices of 26 Dallas-area schools, allowing for a virtual visit with a Children’s physician when a child presents with an illness.  When a child presents himself with a symptom that is out of the nurse’s realm of expertise, the nurse can easily consult with a physician who can help diagnose or recommend care.

Let’s follow up in 6 weeks, from home

Ultimately, children and teens are going to see their pediatricians for health issues and care other than a regular physical, an ear infection, or common cold.  Acne, allergies, changes in hormones, and other long-term issues frequently bring families into the waiting room.  Telehealth services are beginning to address the need for easy yet comprehensive follow-up care that eliminates the time involved with trekking to the doctor and sitting in a waiting room.  Pediatric telehealth allows the physician to remain in the loop for follow-up care that doesn’t require an in-person visit and allows the family to be happy and healthy.

What’s on the horizon?

The need for accessible care is no different for kids than it is for adults and in many ways, providing virtual pediatric care eases a burden on all family members, not just the little one complaining of an ear ache on Thanksgiving Day.  In an age when children know how to swipe an iPad before learning to speak, many will agree that we can expect to see this generation more comfortable with telehealth than any of its predecessors.  Today, parents can expect to see a continued influx of creative uses for telehealth popping up in and around their pediatricians’ offices, making ease of care the new normal.

Learn more about how telehealth is being applied to pediatrics at the Boston Children’s Hospital Global Pediatric Innovation Summit on November 10, 2015.  We look forward to following up on this topic and seeing how quickly pediatric telehealth becomes a critical tool on the path toward more effective pediatric healthcare everywhere.

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