Holiday Health Hazards: The “Do’s” & “Don’ts” of Telemedicine
The holidays are a time of joy, gathering, and connecting. For pediatric emergency physicians such as myself, however, the season is also a time of hazards and emergencies for kids. Some of what I see this time of year, every year, include:
- Children cutting themselves with knives while helping parents prepare food
- Burns due to lit candles resting on low tabletops or surfaces where kids can reach them, or from pressing their hands against hot glass fireplace covers
- Children pulling heavy or sharp decorative objects off walls, mantels, or Christmas trees
I could go on with a long list of injuries I’ve seen, and I’m sure you could add to it from your experience as well.
This is also the time of year when children (and everyone) tend to get sick from the common cold, influenza, and other viral infections due to airborne spread with increased time indoors.
With more people heading to emergency departments and urgent cares, and news of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, wait times for in-person visits can be long. One option that is worth considering if you need acute care is telemedicine, or a virtual visit.
While not appropriate for some conditions, it can be a time saver and even a lifesaver in many situations. It’s convenient, fast, and just as effective as in-person care for many straightforward problems.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, virtual healthcare has grown from a relatively new technology and concept to what is now a widely accepted mode of receiving clinical care. It’s important to understand its strengths and limitations, though, so it can be used optimally. Here is some guidance on appropriate situations for telemedicine and what instances warrant in-person examinations.
DO consider telemedicine for:
- Skin rashes
- Basic allergy symptoms
- Pink eye
- Common cold symptoms
- Guidance for COVID exposures, testing, return to school/isolating
In-person medical examinations are preferable for:
- Ear pain + potential infections
- Abdominal pain
- Broken bones
- Complex, multisystem problems
- Conditions requiring laboratory testing, such as:
- Bladder infections
- Strep throat
A virtual visit can also be a good starting point when trying to determine next steps for care, for example: does a cut need stitches? Telemedicine has proven to be highly effective in providing patients with increased access to the medical care they need. The model has been successful and continues to grow and evolve. It’s here to stay.
I have to admit that at first I was not an early adopter of the telemedicine concept and thought that clinical care wouldn’t be very effective if done virtually. I’ve come full circle on this, and now am an enthusiastic supporter of this forward thinking method of connecting healthcare professionals to patients in the comfort of their own homes. When done correctly, it helps patients address a health problem on an individual level while also helping to preserve in-person care for issues that truly require it.
Wishing your family good health and a happy new year ahead!