Telemedicine can’t always replace pediatric office visits

hand with stethoscope coming out of computer screen

While telemedicine has its place, sometimes the best way to diagnose and treat a child involves a face-to-face office visit with a physician, writes pediatrician Chad Hayes, in a blog post in The Washington Post.

“If you believe that your child’s pediatrician is no better than your smartphone, find a new pediatrician,” advises Hayes, who practices in Charleston, South Carolina.

While parents may be tempted to turn to a telemedicine service to treat their sick child, especially in the middle of the night or on weekends, Hayes cautions that it takes appropriate testing to diagnose conditions such as strep throat, ear infections, urinary tract infections or pneumonia in children.

All telemedicine is not created equal, but when urgent-care services are delivered using only a smartphone to make a patient assessment, the result can be a misdiagnosed condition, he says. Sometimes, a face-to-face visit with a physician is superior and less risky.

While telemedicine can be appropriate for some care, when doctors don’t have access to the required tests, a relationship or trust with parents or access to medical records, it’s harder to get a diagnosis right, he says.

Still patient preferences have played a role in driving adoption of telemedicine technologies in many practices. Indeed, telehealth visits are projected to grow to 7 million in 2018.

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