One of the many new experiences we’ve had during quarantine (aside from cutting our spouse’s hair and homeschooling our kids…) is telemedicine visits. In many ways, telemedicine is incredibly convenient, particularly with kids—you don’t have to wrangle little ones into the car and into an office. But if you’ve had one for your child, you may noticed some issues that can pop up, such as tantrums, forgetting questions or technical difficulties. We spoke to two doctors from Yale Medicine about how to prepare and troubleshoot pediatric telemedicine visits. Scan this helpful checklist before your next one! Because even when this crisis fades it looks likely telemedicine will still be a part of our lives. “We are learning so much about what works well for telemedicine and what will still benefit from the face to face time that is so important in building the relationships we cherish so much in pediatrics. But without a doubt—when we start to rebound from this pandemic—telemedicine will continue to have a solid place in our practices moving forward in ways we probably never expected!” says Maryellen Flaherty-Hewitt, MD, interim section chief of general pediatrics at Yale Medicine.
Schedule It When Your Child is Fed and Rested…
“Sometimes with younger children especially this can be so hard to plan—but we appreciate it when we can see both parent and child during the visit and it helps to make it as stress free as possible for the parents if their child is not too fussy,’ says Dr. Flaherty-Hewitt.
…But Don’t Sweat A Meltdown
Just like in the office, pediatricians and pediatric specialists are used to toddler behavior. “But I’ve gotten through visits where the baby is crying, or the toddler is climbing all over the parent – sometimes we just shrug and keep on going- it’s not too different from what can happen in the office on any given day!” says Dr. Flaherty-Hewitt.
Explain to Your Child What To Expect
Teens are “in their element” and toddlers try to hug them, notes Dr. Flaherty-Hewitt. Different ages will have a different comfort level with the technology and that is normal. Explaining what will be happening will help kids get ready to focus like they would for a Facetime or Zoom call.
Have Them In the Right Clothes for the Appointment
Especially with little kids, make sure they’re dressed appropriately for the appointment to save time. For instance, if you’re looking at a bug bite on a leg, have them in shorts. “Having a flashlight available if you are worried about a sore throat is really helpful, too. Some folks have used a spoon for a tongue depressor- we have all become so resourceful!” says Dr. Flaherty-Hewitt.
Download and Open the App Before the Visit
“It is essential to download the APP, test the audio and video prior to the appointment. We have noted one important tip with regards to audio – if the audio is not working, make sure you turn off any Bluetooth audio devices and then log out and back into the app again,” notes Anthony F Porto, MD MPH, a Yale Medicine pediatric gastroenterologist who sees patients at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital.
Be in a Safe and Quiet Space
Avoid taking the appointment “on the go”, and of course, if you are in the car, pull over to a safe place before starting the call. “We want this to be the most helpful to you as a parent and for your child as well—too many distractions may not enable you to ask all the questions you need answered or you may not be able to write down instructions from the doctor,” says Dr. Flaherty-Hewitt.
Enjoy the Benefits
Beyond convenience, Dr. Porto says he sees benefits of telemedicine for pediatric patients. Says Porto: “I have found the home environment has been quite conducive to visits. For younger children, they are participate in part of the visit and then play with their own toys. Older children and teenagers are probably the most comfortable as they have grown up with this technology and in some instances appear more engaged during Telehealth visits than the traditional face to face visits.”
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