Telehealth is something that more health care providers are offering, especially in Texas. You might be wondering what it is and when your child might use it instead of going to a doctor’s office.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is a health care visit or health support that happens over a computer, phone or tablet computer. It can be used for many different kinds of medical and mental health care for children with disabilities and special health care needs.
Telehealth can include:
- Talking to a doctor, nurse or therapist on a video call. This is called telemedicine or virtual care.
- Text message health reminders and information.
- An app to keep track of symptoms or medications.
- Electronic medical records (EMR) to see information from doctor’s visits and tests, get prescription refills or make appointments. This might be called a “patient portal.”
- A doctor talking to another doctor in another city about a patient’s needs.
Telehealth visits can happen anywhere your child has access to a smartphone or computer. Health care providers have to use technology that protects your child’s privacy. And many insurance companies will pay for telehealth.
When are Telehealth and Telemedicine Helpful?
If your child’s health care providers have telehealth, your child can use it when they don’t need or can’t make an in-person visit. This includes appointments for chronic illnesses or regular therapist visits.
Telehealth is helpful for:
- Families in rural or hard-to-reach areas.
- Parents who don’t have transportation.
- Families with limited time. There is no travel or parking time.
- Families to connect with a provider who speaks their language or shares their culture.
- Children who have a hard time getting around because of a physical disability or health condition.
- Children who are safer or more comfortable at home.
- Children who have a hard time sitting in a waiting room or small exam room.
- Children to see a medical specialist out of their area.
- Health care providers to share information about a child.
Experts are learning that telehealth can work even better than in-person visits for some children and some health needs. Children may make it to more appointments and be in touch with their doctors and therapists more often.
When is an In-Person Visit Better?
Sometimes an in-person visit is better for your child than a telehealth appointment. Work with your child’s doctor or therapist to make that decision.
Here are some times when an in-person visit is a better choice:
- An emergency
- When your child has a new symptom or injury that needs a close-up look
- The initial (first time) visit with a new health care provider
- When your child needs hands-on treatment (for example, massage, physical therapy or a physical exam)
- When telehealth is not working for your child (for example, if their mental health or behavior is not getting better over time)
- When your child needs special tests they can’t get at home
- When your child needs equipment they don’t have at home
- If your child has an easier time communicating in person and they want to be the one to communicate with their health care provider.
- When you as a parent have a hard time understanding or communicating using technology
For more help deciding about telehealth for mental health treatment, see this article by Child Mind Institute.
Helping Your Child Use Telehealth
- Let your child know what to expect.
- Set up and practice using the technology.
- Take away distractions, like noise, TV and siblings.
- Decide with your child if you will stay in the room or give them privacy.