Prior to the pandemic, I hadn’t heard about family physicians offering virtual visits, but the pandemic restrictions have introduced virtual options to connect with our doctor, at least at our family clinic. At the start of lockdown, we were forced to move all our appointments to virtual check-ins and since then, we have only gone in for vaccines and bloodwork.
Initially, when I was told I would be hopping on a call with our doctor (as if I were merely calling my mom or a friend), I thought it might be awkward. Let me tell you, you get used to virtual care very quickly! Discussions with our doctor were just as effective as face-to-face appointments and it has reduced our travel and wait times.
My seven-year-old son has been living with severe stomach aches for the past two years and our family doctor finally sent him to a pediatrician just before the pandemic started. Although we have never met his pediatrician in person, she has done an amazing job checking in on us with virtual phone appointments throughout the pandemic. To be honest, I prefer phone calls vs video chats because we can meet the doctor in our PJs, no hair brushing required! Also, no concerns about a messy house in the background on a phone call.
To determine his belly issues, the pediatrician asked my son and me a series of questions such as, “Where does it hurt?” “How often is the pain occurring” and “What type of pain is it”, the same questions we would have been asked during an in-person visit. At one point she asked me to touch his navel to see if it caused additional discomfort. I was the one pushing his abdomen so my son didn’t flinch or wriggle like he would have in a doctor’s office. To be honest, I was a bit worried that I wasn’t doing it properly. What if I missed a crucial clue during my prodding? Luckily, my doctor was used to diagnosing virtually. Her line of questioning was insightful and kept us on track. She also used previous scans as a baseline and offered tips on how to manage his pain until she could properly diagnose the issue.
While it was a bit disappointing that she couldn’t pinpoint the problem immediately, we’ve since had two follow up calls, each two months apart, and the small changes she recommended to his daily routine has helped his stomach aches significantly. And we never had to leave our house!
We’ve also engaged in a virtual visit with our family physician to deal with some annoying rashes. Between the doctor’s schedule and the kids’ school routines, it has always been a struggle to get a late afternoon in-person appointment. This virtual visit was much better than waiting weeks to meet our doctor when the flare-ups were no longer happening.
Like our experience with our pediatrician, we started the process with a phone consult, but this time we had to follow up by emailing her photos of our rashes. She gave me precise instructions on how to take the pictures and which angles she wanted. Between the images we sent her and our phone consult she was able to quickly diagnose our skin issues and fire off a prescription for some ointment directly to our pharmacy. It was as simple as that!
The pandemic is taking an emotional toll on many kids. We’re in the midst of seeking mental health advice for my 9-year-old daughter, with a plan to connect with a pediatrician and see a clinical therapist or child psychologist soon after. Based on our prior positive experiences with virtual healthcare, I am hoping for video calls. I have a feeling my daughter would be very open to talking about her feelings if she could video chat with a therapist. It may take her a couple of sessions to warm up and trust the therapist, but kids these days spend a lot of time on video chats with their friends and family and so I think she would be comfortable with meeting virtually. I anticipate that these might be longer private sessions where I may be asked to leave the room during the virtual chats. I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll be able to start the process sooner than later.
The pandemic is no reason to abandon doctor visits. If there was one silver lining of lockdown for our family, it has been the expansion of virtual healthcare. Without having to factor in travel time (or parking fees!) with virtual healthcare, I’m now more likely to reach out to our doctor than before. With an email request or a call to the doctor’s office, I can get an appointment within a few days. The current environment of improved access and better technology makes it painless for us to connect with healthcare professionals without sacrificing our health or safety. Fingers crossed this will become the new normal for doctor's visits when the pandemic is a distant memory.
Here's some useful information about virtual healthcare for kids in pain.