Three-quarters of parents who have used telemedicine services for their children say the experience was better than an in-person office visit, according to a new study.
The analysis, released April 23, 2017, by Nemours Children’s Health System operating in five states, surveyed 500 child caregivers between February 15 and 20 about their awareness and usage of telemedicine services for their children aged 17 years and younger (mean age 10 years). Of caregivers surveyed, 15% had tried telemedicine services for their children, while another 61% reported they plan to use telemedicine in the next year for their children’s medical care, according to the study. Eight percent of caregivers did not plan to use telemedicine, and 31% of those surveyed were unsure.
Of child caregivers who have used telemedicine, 75% of reported their telemedicine experience was better than an in-person visit, according to the survey . Convenience, after-hours accessibility, and immediacy were the top three reasons caregivers sought an online visit for their child. Compared with a similar survey conducted by Nemours in 2014, parents’ use of telemedicine for their children has grown by 125% and awareness of the practice has increased by 88%, the study found.
The overall takeaway is that parents are using telemedicine because of its ease and accessibility and they’re having satisfactory experiences with the technology, said Shayan Vyas , MD, a pediatrician based in Nemours’ Orlando location and director of telemedicine for Nemours Children’s Hospital.
“Parents are citing telemedicine because of convenience and that’s true for other industries that have gone mobile,” Dr. Vyas said in an interview. “We no longer hail a cab at the intersection, we use our smartphones. We now use Amazon and other companies to order diapers and other everyday items. … More and more, patients are driving telemedicine more than the systems or the providers.”
Caregivers surveyed said they are most willing to use telehealth services for cold and flu (58%), pink eye (51%), and rashes (48%) as well as well-child visits (41%). However, parents and caregivers were hesitant to use telemedicine for chronic conditions and reported they would likely never consider telehealth services for diabetes (53%), asthma (43%), ear pain (37%), and ADHD (36%).
The findings are expected because there are limitations for providers when it comes to treating some conditions and chronic diseases with telemedicine, Dr. Vyas said. He also stressed that telemedicine should not be used to replace the medical home for children.
“We’re working really hard to ensure there’s great pediatric care online and that the medical home stays intact,” he said. “We don’t want telemedicine to become the wild wild west of retail clinics where children are getting care from providers they don’t know or who are not in touch with their primary care world.”
Nemours has incorporated telemedicine throughout its health system with direct-to-consumer care for acute, chronic, and postsurgical appointments. The telehealth program, called Nemours CareConnect, is a 24/7, on-demand pediatric service that provides access to Nemours pediatricians through smartphones, tablets, or computers. In addition, Nemours CareConnect is used to bring pediatric specialists into affiliated community hospitals.
“At Nemours, we’ve seen how telemedicine can positively impact patients’ lives,” Dr. Vyas said. “The overwhelmingly positive response we’ve seen from parents who are early adopters of telemedicine really reinforces the feasibility of online doctor visits and sets the stage for real change in the way health care is delivered.”
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