Pediatricians assess pros, cons of telehealth

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – It’s been more than a year since the pandemic forced patients and providers to pivot to telehealth. Doctors at the UVM Medical Center say it’s getting more positive reviews than negative— from both clients and health care professionals.

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

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

Sarah Kessler, a senior telehealth program strategist at the UVM Health Network, says pediatric specialty teams say that aspect is beneficial for them.

”Being able to see children, again, in their homes or seeing them during a bedtime routine 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 even after the pandemic ends, many providers want to keep seeing patients via video when appropriate. That includes appointments that don’t need physical attention such as medication checks, mental health services, and follow-ups for chronic conditions.

“Especially when patients are able to take a glucose or a weight or blood pressure at home and then be able to verbally share that with their provider on a video call,” Kessler said.

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

”People take off their whole days to come in to see me for a half hour appointment. They’re coming like three hours away so that’s huge. And that was part of the reason why, as Sarah said, that we were looking to start this up. I think it was sort of a path forward even before the pandemic,” said Dr. Bingham.

They say another plus is the accessibility and reduced travel time. They also report that the no-show rate has fallen in the past year. One in 6 people skipped appointments before the pandemic. Now, it’s roughly 1 in 10.

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