The concept of telehealth, as it applies to after-hours phone calls, is nothing new for pediatricians. The AAP's Section on Telehealth Care started as the Section on Telephone Care in the 1990s in response to the proliferation of call centers without quality standards.
But the pediatric community is once again on its toes. Further advancement of telemedicine technologies by a new segment of the health care market once again threatens to diminish the quality of the medical home, according to some experts.
The remote equivalent of retail clinics, standalone direct-to-consumer (DTC) providers have responded to an increasing patient demand for the technology. It's convenient, has the potential to lower the cost to the patient, reduces travel time, and provides access to care outside normal office hours.
But Dr. Bryan Burke, a member of the AAP Section on Telehealth Care Executive Committee, says DTC providers have set “a low bar for quality of medical care.”
“They deliver acute care without a previous physician-patient relationship, prior hands-on physical examination, or access to the patient's medical record because the care is fragmented and unconnected to the patient's medical home,” Dr. Burke wrote in a February 2015 commentary piece for the AAP News.
What's the Answer?
Dr. Burke urges the AAP to respond in two ways:
- Publish policy that provides guidance on evaluating and treating patients via televideo and/or remote monitoring devises.
- Pediatric practices must adopt virtual and mobile health technology to improve care, reduce costs, and remain competitive.
Most importantly, patients need and want the ease of access telemedicine affords. Families of pediatric patients are young and comfortable with using technology. Plus, it's convenient. The technology allows for less travel, and provides for care outside normal office hours.
Next in our series on Telemedicine: We'll look at why telehealth is likely to be slower to catch on with smaller pediatric practices.