It’s 2 a.m. and your baby has a fever. With the coronavirus outbreak, you may wonder what to do. You can’t risk the going to the hospital.
And, well–what about well-baby check-ups? These days, even the thought of hanging out in the well-child waiting room for five minutes can have you on edge.
Enter the virtual doctor visit–personal video chats between you and a health care provider from your mobile device using an app with a secure interface.
In these uncertain times, “virtual check-ups are the best option,” says Natasha Burgert, MD, a pediatrician with Pediatric Associates in Overland Park, KS.
Virtual doctor visits make health care more accessible. You and your baby can see the pediatrician, or a physician assistant, nurse practitioner or laction consultant from the comfort of your own home or anywhere you are from your mobile device.
Scheduling a visit is convenient too–right from your device–and there’s no travel time.
A study in the American Journal of Managed Care found that visits doctor visits can successfully replace office visits without sacrificing the quality of care or communication.
What surprised the researchers is that 21% of patients and one third of the providers thought the overall quality of a virtual visit was better than an office visit.
This could be why: Because virtual doctor’s visits are visual, most of the time between patient (and parents of the patient) and provider is spent face to face, compared to less than 20 percent of the time of a traditional visit.
The researchers concluded that virtual doctor visits give patients more of what they want from a medical visit—the provider’s attention—less of what they don’t—time spent traveling and waiting.
BUT, for newbies, “doing a virtual check-up for the first time and it can be awkward,” Dr. Burgert says.
Are you ready for virtual doctor visit debut? You don’t have wash your hair or put on make-up, but to help a virtual doctor visit hum right along, you’ll want to be the Dr. Mom/Dr. Dad/Dr. Coparent version of camera-ready.
In other words, if you do a bit of homework first, you’ll be more prepared for the virtual visit.
Here, Dr. Burgert offers her top to-do tips for navigating a virtual pediatrician check-up.
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Parents: Things to Know Before a Virtual Doctor Visit
Jot these numbers down before a before an online doctor visit starts.
“When I see patients for virtual doctor visits, I like to know a child’s vital signs,” Dr. Burgert says. “This includes a current weight and height.” A simple scale is fine to get a weight.
For your baby’s height, laying your baby down next to a tape measure can give a fairly accurate measurement. (This baby tape measure doubles as a memento growth chart. Cute!)
“Especially for sickness visits, I like to know a recent temperature,” Dr. Burgert says.
Your Child’s Respiration (breaths per minute) and Heart Rate (beats per minute)
There are breathing monitors on the market like this one to track your baby’s respiration/breaths per minute.
Or, you can just do it yourself. To-do tactic: To figure out your child’s respiration rate, watch and count the number of times your baby’s stomach rises and falls in 30 seconds when your baby is sleeping.
One rise and fall = one breath. Double that number to get your baby’s breaths rate per minute.
There are monitors to track your’ baby’s heart rate/pulse beats per minute like this one. Or, just feel your baby’s pulse at the wrist and count the number of heart beats in 30 seconds, then double that number for one minute.
“Parents should also know all the medications a child routinely takes and any additional medications the child was given to help illness symptoms,” Dr. Burgert says. (Here’s a tip on dosing your child’s medication accurately.)
Virtual Doctor Visit To-Do Tactics: Get a Sense of Timing
Since virtual doctor visits typically are for focused issues, it’s important to have a specific timeline of the problem. Be prepared to answer:
- What symptoms does the child have and how long has he had them?
- How is the problem affecting his daily activities and mood?
- Is he able to eat and drink normally?
- Is he in pain?
- How is he sleeping?
“Finally, I encourage families to write down all the questions and worries they have. Virtual visits are often quick and I always want to be sure everything is tied up prior to ending the session,” Dr. Burgert says.
More Insidery Tips for Navigating Virtual Doctor Check-Ups
Dr. Burgert offers this additional insight about virtual pediatrician visits:
“Virtual visit are new to many docs. We are trying our best to get these technologies implemented into our daily workflow as quickly as we can. As with anything new, glitches and delays can occur. Please be patient!”
“Think about light and sound. Natural light is best. If the visit can be done by a window, that is often best. Alternatively, choose bright bathroom light. Choose a spot that will have limited interruptions so you can focus on the time with the doctor.
That being said, we do often like to meet family pets and say hello to all the kids in the house. That makes our job fun, too! And have your mobile phone handy in case we are disconnected.”
“Know that there are some things that we cannot assess virtually, such as an ear exam in a fussy toddler. When you begin a virtual visit, understand you still may have to have a modified visit to the office for a physical exam. These in-person follow-up visits are often very focused and quick, allowing limited time in the office and minimal exposure to your child.
“Many offices will even offer to come to your car to complete an exam to optimize time and limit exposure. Just ask.
“There are many online services and apps that provide generic medical care online. Although these technologies are interesting, I believe it’s always in a child’s best interest to connect with their medical home. Pediatricians want to help and want to see your children, especially in these challenging times.
Call your child’s pediatrician first to see what can be offered to make your visit as safe and valuable as possible.”
“Virtual visits are great for mental health issues, behavioral concerns, sleep issues, ADHD evaluations, developmental checks, nutritional guidance, and much more. Be sure to call your child’s doctor first to discuss your concern and see if a virtual visit can be done.”
From BPM: You’ll also want to know: Is there a copay for a virtual doctor visit? Will you integrate the information from a virtual doctor visit into my child’s electronic medical record? What should I do if I have a follow-up question? Are you (the doctor) available on email or text if I have a follow-up question?
That’s a Wrap!
Here’s a recap of the basics you might need to help make a virtual pediatrician visit go as smoothly as possible.
Take care out there and be well!