The Value of Virtual Care Use in Pediatrics

By Lee Horner, CEO, Synzi
Twitter: @SynziCare
Twitter: @lee_a_horner

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health conducted a study with adults to identify health topics that are a “big problem” for children and teens. Key topics include parents’ concerns over their kids’ future, safety and long-term health.

When a child is sick or in need of health care, time is of the essence for parents. As busy parents may have difficulty rearranging their schedule or securing transporation to bring their child to an in-person appointment, access to quality and convenient pediatric care is always in high demand. The situation is particularly challenging in rural and underserved communities where there is an insufficient supply of pediatricians and a signifiant physical distance between patients and medical facilities.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), ‘there is currently a shortage of pediatric medical subspecialists in many fields, as well as a shortage of pediatric surgical specialists. In addition, the AAP believes that the current distribution of primary care pediatricians is inadequate to meet the needs of children living in rural and other underserved areas, and more primary care pediatricians will be needed in the future because of the increasing number of children who have significant chronic health problems, changes in physician work hours, and implementation of current health reform efforts that seek to improve access to comprehensive patient- and family-centered care for all children in a medical home.’

The AAP has developed the “medical home” as a model of delivering primary care that is accessible, continuous, comprehensive, family-centered, coordinated, compassionate, and culturally effective to every child and adolescent. Medical homes:

  • Provide the child with uninterrupted care and appropriate payment to support and sustain optimal health outcomes
  • Address preventative, acute, and chronic care from birth to adulthood
  • Bring together an integrated health system with an interdisciplinary team of patients and families, providers, specialists, facilities, etc.

Virtual care is starting to become an integral part of the integrated health system and the pediatric patient’s medical home. A virtual care platform can improve access to timely, quality care while also bridging the gap in shortages for primary care pediatricians and specialists.

Utilizing virtual visits with a pediatrician can save valuable and critical time for both the sick or injured child and the busy parent. Pediatricians can augment their inperson appointments by also offering care to their practice’s patients while the patient (and their parent) remains comfortably at home. If a child suffers from a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes, regular virtual visits can ensure the child is using an inhaler or monitoring their blood sugar correctly. The platform can also push text messages, SMS, or emails which reinforce appropriate lifestyle modifications, appointment updates, and medicate reminders.

Beyond the home, school districts are also embracing the value which a virtual care platform provides to its students and school nurses. In a May 2018 Wall Street Journal article, school nurses indicate that this helps them treat students faster, reducing risk of infection, getting kids back to class faster and relieving a big burden on families. As needed, the students can also be connected to an offsite physician for a real-time consultation.

With virtual care, patients/parents and providers can remain connected, the medical home remains intact, and, most importantly, patient satisfaction and outcomes can be optimized.

This article was originally published on the Synzi Blog and is republished here with permission.