Telehealth is an effective way to see patients, especially during the pandemic when infection rates are high in many communities. It’s clear that telemedicine is here to stay. Virtual care helps keep children connected to you — their pediatrician and their medical home. Telemedicine also allows busy parents to schedule their children’s appointments when it’s convenient for them.
But for some families, video visits are a struggle. These vulnerable populations include those with low socioeconomic status, ethnic and racial minorities, people in rural areas, and patients with complex health conditions or learning difficulties.
In this piece, we’re taking a look at four challenges vulnerable communities face when it comes to telemedicine. But, we’re not stopping there. We’re also offering solutions to these problems, so you can continue to serve pediatric patients by providing a high-quality healthcare experience.
In the United States, there are millions of families with young children who speak Spanish as the primary language in their homes. For them, written instructions like, “Take this medication once a day” can easily be misunderstood. Why? In Spanish, “once” means eleven. It’s pronounced differently than the English word “once” but is spelled the same. Imagine a child taking a prescription eleven times, instead of one time. The results could be catastrophic.
With Anytime Pediatrics, your Spanish-speaking families are able to register for the platform in their primary language. After they create their account, they can easily request a virtual appointment because all of the fields are in Spanish. In addition, our live interpreter services allow you and your patients to communicate confidently, without confusion.
Some parents have flexible work schedules that enable them to take time off work for their children’s daytime doctor’s appointments. However, other caregivers find it incredibly difficult to leave their workplace for an unexpected sick visit. These families are faced with the heart-wrenching decision of putting their job in jeopardy or hoping their sick child will recover without a provider’s guidance. Lack of transportation adds another barrier to this problem.
On-demand telehealth appointments allow you to be available for your patients outside of normal office hours when most parents are working. Some families prefer early morning video visits before work and school starts, while others are more likely to choose late afternoon or early evening for virtual appointments. Another option is to open up Saturday mornings for telehealth.
Research indicates that families of lower socioeconomic status and those of ethnic and racial minorities are more likely to experience technical difficulties during telehealth appointments. Folks of advanced age (66 to 80 years old) also experience more frustration with technology, and this could be a problem for children whose caregiver is a grandparent or an older family member. While audio-only phone guidance can be better than nothing, video communication provides the best care and outcomes. In addition, families who are using a laptop or tablet have greater success with video visits than those with only smartphones.
Technical support is crucial. With Anytime Pediatrics, we provide initial and ongoing training to pediatric providers. When you and your team members understand the virtual care platform and can troubleshoot minor technical problems, you are equipped to educate your patients and their families — leading to successful virtual care. Plus, our website has a robust section for patients’ parents, answering frequently asked questions and providing the basic information they need for a favorable telemedicine experience.
In many rural areas of the country, broadband availability is unfortunately still not what it should be. This creates frustration because of network issues, Wi-Fi connection problems, and slow internet speed. Much like technology literacy, data suggests that internet access is worse for families of lower socioeconomic status, ethnic and racial minorities, and those who are older.
While we are not able to solve the larger problem of broadband availability, we at Anytime Pediatrics give patients multiple ways to access our platform. Families can use the camera on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, and we also have a user-friendly mobile app. We encourage your pediatric practice to provide clear instructions for patients’ caregivers to follow when they log on for a video visit. Some of the most helpful tips that affect your connection include:
- How to switch from WiFI to cellular internet
- How to enable your camera and microphone
- How to check your audio and video connections
- How to update your mobile device
Takeaways About Serving Vulnerable Communities
As you consider the vulnerable populations you’re caring for in your community, keep in mind that their experiences with telehealth may have nuances. Digital communication has many wonderful advantages, but telemedicine is not always appropriate for all patients at all times. It’s important to be selective and consider whether video visits will produce the best outcomes, especially for patients who are part of marginalized populations because of their ethnicity, race, or socioeconomic status.
When you do see your patients in person, take great care to build a meaningful connection with them. It can be difficult to start a trusting relationship via telehealth, but a previous trusting relationship is easier to maintain through virtual care.
Are you ready to learn more about how telehealth can help your practice serve your communities? Request a free consultation today!