written by Amanda S. Penny, M.D.
One of the benefits—yes, there have been some benefits—of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the increased use of telemedicine. In an effort to keep patients safe at home and staff safe at work, many doctors shifted to working virtually as the pandemic started. Although this technology has been in place for years, practices had been slow to adopt it. During the pandemic physicians overcame administrative hurdles and learned how to implement telemedicine. Telemedicine can be a wonderful tool, but also has its limitations.
At Children’s Medical Group, our remote visit software allows us to connect with patients via computer, tablet or cell phone. Our office is able to send a link which connects a parent to the doctor’s virtual waiting room, and from there, the doctor completes the connection to start the visit. The virtual connection allows for reduced exposure to contagious illnesses and saves time as parents don’t have to travel to our physical offices.
Although telemedicine can be convenient, there are drawbacks to the virtual visit. It’s more challenging to measure vital signs like blood pressure, and we can’t use a stethoscope or check a patient’s ears. Limitations on the physical examination of patients can make diagnosis more difficult. In addition, when we lose the physical connection with our patients, visits can feel more impersonal.Over the past year, we’ve learned which types of visits work best for telemedicine. Problems which require conversation only work best for virtual visits. These include behavior or sleep issues, and routine medication follow-ups. Other issues like ear pain, fever, or rashes will require an in-person physical examination. Our triage nurses can help parents decide when a telemedicine visit is appropriate.