Pediatricians assess pros, cons of telehealth

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – It has been more than a year since the pandemic forced patients and caregivers to switch to telecare. Doctors at the UVM Medical Center say it gets more positive than negative reviews – from both clients and healthcare providers.

Dr. Peter Bingham, a pediatric neurologist, says telehealth’s biggest challenge is building rapport and connecting with his young clients through a screen. But he says there is one benefit that an office visit cannot provide: a glimpse into the child’s family life.

“We have a consensus that is valuable to keep doing,” said Dr. Bingham.

Sarah Kessler, a senior telehealth program strategist at the UVM Health Network, says specialized pediatric patient teams say this aspect is beneficial to them.

“Being able to see kids back home or seeing them at bedtime or a meal routine and things like that, if that’s how the appointment is scheduled, because it gives more insight into their normal day,” said Kessler.

Kessler says that even after the pandemic ends, many health care providers want to continue to see patients via video if necessary. That includes appointments that don’t require physical attention, such as medication checks, mental health services, and follow-ups for chronic conditions.

“Especially when patients are able to take glucose, weight, or blood pressure at home and then share it orally with their healthcare provider during a video call,” Kessler said.

Dr. Bingham and Kessler say they recognized the benefits of telehealth years ago and embarked on a virtual pediatric neurology program in 2018.

“People take their whole day to visit me for half an hour. They’re coming in three hours, so that’s huge. And that was part of the reason why, as Sarah said, we were looking to get this started. I think it was kind of a path forward even before the pandemic, ”said Dr. Bingham.

They say that another plus is the accessibility and the shortening of the travel time. They also report that the no-show percentage has dropped over the past year. One in six people skipped appointments before the pandemic. Now it is about 1 in 10.

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