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Telehealth Insights

Back-to-School Season: How Telehealth Can Help When Children are Sick

Everyone with a school-aged child knows the feeling when the school’s number appears on their phone screen during the school day. Their heart absolutely sinks, and they wonder “What could possibly be wrong?” When they hear the school nurse’s voice on the line, panic sets in.

While most of these calls are not delivering an emergency announcement, the news is usually not great. Maybe a fever, headache, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, or a suspicious rash. As a pediatrician in a post-pandemic world, you know that a child with any of these symptoms is going to be sent home from school.

However, this tricky scenario puts most parents in a bind, having to leave work early or hoping to call in a last-minute babysitter who doesn’t mind being exposed to the sick child. In addition, they have to figure out how to get their child well again, whether that’s through at-home care, an appointment with you, prescription medications, or some combination of all of the above. One thing’s for sure: Virtual care is a great solution when children are unexpectedly sent home from school! Here are three ways telehealth can help when school-aged children are sick.

1. Telehealth Speeds Up Care and Recovery

When the school nurse relays the information that a child is suddenly sick, parents want two outcomes as quickly as possible: 1) For the youngster to get well and 2) For them to be able to return to school and extracurriculars. Depending on the child’s symptoms and the school’s policies, a doctor’s note may be required for them to resume normal activities.

Virtual care can help speed up the time between that dreaded sick call to parents and when you can see your young patients. This is something families appreciate, especially when an unknown illness interrupts the day, forcing children out of work and school. In some cases, you’ll probably assess symptoms in person, but a telehealth follow-up is often the perfect option when the child is feeling better and needs your sign-off to return to classes and other group settings.

2. Telehealth Keeps the Child in the Medical Home

A sickness that presents during the school day can leave many families scrambling to do what’s best for the child. Parents often have to leave work, and some feel like they need to rush their child to the nearest provider, even if that means an urgent care center or a minute clinic.

As their trusted pediatrician, you know this is not ideal. When children receive care outside the medical home, the clinician does not know their health history and can’t access their most current medical records. Encounters in urgent care centers and retail clinics are less personalized and more expensive. A telehealth appointment with you, their regular pediatric provider, means families can keep the child’s care in the medical home, leading to high-quality care and better health outcomes.

3. Telehealth Provides Convenience and Flexibility for Families

When you offer after-hours virtual nurse triage, your practice is available during time slots that are convenient for families. For many patients and their parents, this includes late afternoon or early evening hours when everyone is home for the day. In situations where families are following up for a doctor’s note that allows a child to return to school, a great option is often an early morning appointment before work and school even start. These alternatives lessen the strain on parents and children who are already stressed and anxious about missing school and work.

Offering flexibility in telehealth options also shows you care about the community you’re serving. In fact, our Anytime Pediatrics survey data suggests that an overwhelming majority of parents consider convenience and time effectiveness to be one of the primary benefits of telemedicine for their families.

Takeaways About Telehealth for School-Aged Children

An unforeseen sickness in a school-aged child has the potential to affect the entire family’s day—as well as the following days. But as the youngster’s primary healthcare provider, you and your pediatric practice have the opportunity to step in and make a difference for your patients and their parents. Whether you use a combination of in-person and virtual visits or handle the situation strictly with telehealth appointments, your personalized care will meet families where they are.

Are you interested in helping families get back to school and work after an unexpected illness? Anytime Pediatrics can help with high-quality care through virtual appointments. For more information on implementing telehealth in your practice, contact us today to request a consultation.