For some pediatricians, the prospect of regularly using telehealth to connect virtually with patients was a distant thought prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the public health emergency created by the novel coronavirus meant an accelerated introduction to the technology that would provide a link to patients and families when social distancing demanded fewer in-person visits.
Minnesota Pediatrician asked for reflections from members around the state about their experiences with telehealth in the time of COVID-19. Here’s what we heard:
Katie Smentek, MD, FAAP; Mankato Clinic
Within 12 hours of investigating telehealth options at the Mankato Clinic, we had our first provider up and running. Within one week, every provider was trained and using the new platform. Telehealth visits were critical to our clinic in April, when 45 percent of our visits were via telemedicine. Our families are so thankful to have an additional way to see their pediatrician during this time.
Gretchen Karstens, MD, FAAP; St. Luke’s
Telemedicine worked well to help get us started back up seeing our kids. We worked with Doxy.me and it seemed to generally go well. It was so good to see my families, reassure them, and be reassured that they were okay. Going forward, it seemed like telemedicine might work well for some of the behavioral health visits especially with teens as they seemed very comfortable with working in this medium.
Janna Gewirtz O’Brien, MD, FAAP; Adolescent Medicine Fellow, Leadership Education in Adolescent Health Fellowship, University of Minnesota
I’m particularly excited about the use of telemedicine with adolescents. I’ve heard from them that they love being able to access their healthcare virtually from the comfort of their own homes. I’ve also had the opportunity to connect via telemedicine with youth facing homeless in shelter and they are grateful to have the opportunity to receive healthcare without having to leave the relative safety of the shelter. While we as providers may find integrating the technology to be a challenge, we can learn from young people who are savvy with technology and have adapted to this new world, even in the face of significant adversity. Even though many of us have launched telehealth as a rapid response to COVID-19, I think there is great potential to continue to use virtual care in the future as one way of expanding healthcare access for teens.
The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to offer members guidance about the increased use of telehealth during the pandemic. Most recently, Dr. Richard Oken, a member of the AAP Committee on Medical Liability and Risk Management, authored the article, “How to provide good care using telehealth and reduce medical liability risks” through AAP News.
You can find the article at https://www.aappublications.org/news/2020/05/21/law052120.