Over the last two years, we have seen the concept of telehealth appointments grow into reality. For providers, these types of visits have become standard practice. However, some patients and families are not using these types of appointments as frequently as providers suggest.
As we all know, COVID increased the occurrence of telemedicine visits, with about 20 percent of parents reporting they have accompanied their child to a virtual appointment. Still, many families considered telehealth a last resort and chose it because there was no other option. Surveys have shown that one-third of parents who participated in telehealth appointments did so to prevent the spread of viruses and limit both their and their child’s likelihood of becoming ill. Another one-third of parents selected telemedicine for the convenience it offers. They miss less work, use less gasoline, and save money when they can have their child’s healthcare needs met virtually.
While there have been reports that up to 90 percent of caregivers are satisfied with connecting with a pediatrician virtually, some parents still have reservations about using telehealth visits over in-office ones. Why are these caregivers uncertain? In this blog, we’ll explore the reasons and how you as a pediatrician can help overcome parent hesitation about telehealth visits.
What are Parents’ Concerns Regarding Telehealth Visits?
Parents have voiced two main concerns regarding telehealth visits. First, nearly 25 percent worry that technical problems will occur during a healthcare visit. Many of these parents live in rural areas without reliable access to an internet connection. In addition, folks of lower socioeconomic status may not have the devices required to connect to virtual visits.
Second, parents have expressed concerns that telehealth visits are not as thorough as in-office meetings. This is especially true if their child has been referred to a specialist or is due for their well visit. However, parents are more likely to agree to a virtual appointment if their child is experiencing a minor illness, such as cold symptoms or limited skin rashes, a follow-up appointment, or needs a mental health check-in.
How Can You Combat Parent Hesitation about Telemedicine?
Meeting parents and families where they are, addressing their concerns, and providing solutions can help to calm their fears about participating in a virtual office visit. Here are three ways to overcome parents’ concerns surrounding virtual appointments:
Reduce Technology Barriers
Limited access to technology is a real and widespread issue, especially for those living in rural areas. Their access to an internet connection may be limited or completely unavailable, making it impossible to connect online for telehealth appointments. In addition, lower-income households might not be able to afford internet connection or the smart devices required to wirelessly connect to appointments.
Addressing these concerns and offering alternatives can be helpful in reducing parental concerns. For example, they may have a family member who can join them with a tablet or mobile hotspot. In this case, it’s important to provide flexible scheduling around the friend or relative’s schedule.
Furthermore, accommodating patients and their parents who do not have any other options is just as important. If they simply do not have the capability to connect virtually, then offering a phone call visit rather than a video visit can help decrease the anxiety around scheduling telemedicine appointments.
Provide Comprehensive Visits
If your patients’ parents have voiced concerns that virtual visits are not as thorough as in-office appointments, education is key. It will be helpful to talk with your patients and their families about the most appropriate ways to utilize telehealth appointments.
In addition, reassure them that the visits can take as long as they need in order for you to obtain a comprehensive history. You can also let them know that you will be able to address any questions that arise during the appointment.
Lastly, educate families on the objective data you need them to obtain in order to develop a well-versed treatment plan. Help them understand that you gather much of this information through conversation, which is conducive to telehealth, and they can assist by providing simple metrics, like the child’s height or blood pressure. This strategy can assure them that you are listening to their concerns and offering a well-rounded plan of care.
Keep Open Communication
Most fears surrounding telemedicine can be eliminated through clear communication between pediatricians, your staff, and the parents. Anytime Pediatrics can help your office develop a seamless protocol for how to check in virtual patients and how to collect their copays if applicable. Your team can communicate with parents to let them know how they can expect to connect to their virtual visit and what data, such as temperature and weight, they will need to have available at the appointment.
Let parents know that ultimately, it’s up to them whether or not they utilize telehealth. It’s not a mandatory delivery model of care. If they are interested in exploring the option but are not ready to commit to a full-length telehealth visit, they can start with virtual visits that are of smaller concern until they become more comfortable. Examples include addressing their child’s sleep patterns or feeding tendencies.
Anytime Pediatrics offers web support, landing page templates, and informational materials that you can use for patient education and communication. We also have an after-hours virtual care option that can help parents transition comfortably using telemedicine.
How Can After-Hours Virtual Care Bridge the Gap?
Telehealth is a cost-effective and convenient way to deliver healthcare in today’s world. These benefits trickle down from the healthcare system to the patients you treat. For example, virtual visits reduce the amount of time parents have to take off of work, as well as the hours and gas it takes to travel to and from doctor’s appointments. Additionally, students do not have to miss as much school.
Anytime After-Hours is an excellent gateway delivery system for helping parents acclimate to telemedicine. It’s a real-time option that gives parents an opportunity to experience telehealth when children need care urgently. By calling your medical exchange, patients and parents will be connected via phone or video to a registered nurse with at least five years of emergency room experience. They assess your patients and provide them with appropriate medical guidance utilizing Schmitt-Thompson Protocols. If a next-day office visit is appropriate, they can schedule that follow-up.
Implementing an after-hours virtual care program can help parents become more comfortable with the concept of virtual visits and allow them to experience the benefits firsthand. Whether you choose to begin with Anytime After Hours or our hallmark telemedicine platform, our services can help you meet families where they are! For more information, contact us today to request a consultation.