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Question

Our health plan offers telemedicine services. Can “video visits” be a good option for my child?

Alison Curfman, MD, FAAP

Answer

​The American Academy of Pediatrics believes a child’s medical care is best provided face-to-face. In certain situations, however, video visits and other telehealth tools used within a child’s medical home can give families increased access to high-quality pediatric services. 

They may be used in settings that include:​

Hospitals. If a pediatric service is not available in your area, telehealth can be used to remotely connect you with a specialist. 

  • Emergency Situations: Many areas, including some rural communities, may not have immediate access to doctors that are specially trained to take care of children in an emergency. When a sick child comes to the hospital in one of these areas, a pediatric specialist can be available immediately to help the medical staff stabilize and treat the child before transporting them to a pediatric center or children’s hospital.

  • Outpatient Visits: A child with a health issue may live in an area that is far away from their specialist. There are some options for these children to visit a local hospital and connect remotely with their doctor to receive outpatient care.

  • Special Services: Video visits may be available for physical therapy, speech therapy, hearing screenings, nutritional counseling and breastfeeding consultations 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 conduct a video visit with a doctor or nurse practitioner to diagnose and treat common ailments such as ear infections, strep throat, sprained ankles, and common colds. The parent can be included on the visit as well. A virtual visit can help the school nurse determine which children need to be seen in person by their pediatrician or in the emergency room.

At Home. This type of telehealth is known as “direct-to-consumer” care.  With this model, you can use your own smartphone or tablet to connect to a provider to diagnose and treat your child for some common, non-urgent conditions. There are many companies that offer these services, but not all of them are certified in pediatrics. For guidelines about how to evaluate which services may be right for you and your child. See Telehealth Services for Children​ for more information.​

How does a video visit work?

During a video visit, a physician or other medical provider uses video conferencing to connect with you and your child. The doctor can ask you about your child’s symptoms, just like in a face-to-face visit. Your child can be examined via video, using tools such as:

  • Smartphones, tablets and desktop 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.

​The doctor can look at your child’s activity level, breathing, interaction and general state of health with the video feed. Extra tools, as discussed below, can be used for a more specialized exam on your child. If the doctor thinks the virtual visit is not adequate to diagnose your child, he or she will recommend seeking in-person treatment at your pediatrician, urgent care or emergency room.

Remember:

There are many telehealth providers that are not geared towards children. To avoid inappropriate advice or treatment, make sure your child is seen by a professional who has specialized training and experience to care for children, has all the tools necessary to diagnose and treat your child, and who has an established relationship with your family.

​Additional Information & Resources:


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
10/11/2019
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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