pediatric telemedicine, digital health tools, pediatric virtual care

Digital Health Tools Transforming Pediatric Telemedicine, Teletherapy & Telehealth


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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented rise in pediatric telemedicine to alleviate the strain of behavioral health issues. Unprecedented stressors abound. Children are now more often confined to their homes and are less able to socialize. They may be forced to adjust to their parents’ working from home. They may witness economic and emotional fluctuations that leave them more anxious than at any time in recent history.

With the increased demand for care with a shortage of available pediatric behavioral professionals, many organizations have shifted to pediatric telemedicine and telehealth or teletherapy tools.

COVID 19 and Challenges for Pediatric Telemedicine for Behavioral Health

A meta-analysis published in JAMA Network, pediatrics found that one in every four children suffered depression during the COVID-19 lockdown and the anxiety prevalence rate was 20.5%. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), compared to 2019, the number of mental health-related emergency visits in 2020 went up by 24% for children in the 5-11 age group and 31% in the 12-17 age group.

The American Association of Pediatrics and the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have officially declared an emergency as pediatric behavioral health went through a crisis countrywide. Parents had pretty tough times getting support for pediatric behavioral health following the closure of clinics and shortage of pediatric-trained therapists. Digital health tools primarily developed for adult health care have been adapted to connect parents to trained child therapists to overcome geographical and pandemic-related barriers.

How Effective Is Pediatric Telemedicine for Behavioral Care?

Studies are surfacing from around the world. A 2021 study reported in Academic Pediatrics accepted pediatric telemedicine as effective for assessing and treating pediatric behavioral health issues. The study highlighted that less than 50% of mental health clinics offered online consultation before the pandemic. While 25% of the pediatric-focused clinics closed, the use of digital health tools in the remaining 75% increased from 15% in 2019 to 45.2% utilization in 2020.

Another 2020 Singaporean study published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry highlighted the benefit of telehealth, quoting previous diagnostic validity studies to claim high concordance between telemental and in-person treatment. In September 2021, the Family Relations journal published a research report listing out convenience and benefits of telehealth for children and adolescents. The report mentions increased attendance and greater engagement with adolescents as critical benefits. It also reported how mental health practitioners have incorporated telehealth into their practices and expect the trend to continue even after the pandemic.

Benefits of Telehealth for Combating Pediatric Telemedicine & Behavioral Health Issues

Recognized benefits of virtual pediatric care include:

Natural & Safe Environment

An Australian study published in the May 2021 issue of Psychiatry Response shows the 12-25 age group is “significantly more likely to rate telehealth as having a positive impact on service quality than in-person.” Clinicians polled expressed interest in using telehealth as part of their care beyond the pandemic, supporting its permanent role in youth mental health care. In many cases, telehealth may prove to be a better way to consult with children and adolescents, who often shun clinical office settings. Telehealth solutions for pediatric behavioral health enable assessment and intervention, which allow practitioners to witness and modify interaction more naturalistically as they occur in a family’s environment. Clinicians can offer interventions that are more in tune with the child’s routines and environment. Also, children and adolescents spend more time on smartphones and computers. They may prefer telehealth sessions through video conferencing than through office visits.

Convenient Scheduling and Follow-ups

Digital health tools have been reported to significantly reduce wait times for care when working with children who have made suicide attempts or are struggling with depression and anxiety, according to a 2020 study published in Telemedicine and eHealth. Parents also report that digital health tools make it easier to schedule appointments.

The Future of Digital Health Tools for Pediatric Virtual Care

The increasing popularity of virtual pediatric care has attracted investors, and startups received about $3.1 billion investment in the first nine months of 2021. The telehealth sector will likely see legislation and regulations in 2022 that may bring multi-state licenses, full reimbursements, skill-building facilities, fast-track infrastructure, and technological innovation.

Pediatric virtual care has now become standard practice for healthcare providers and hospitals. It has demonstrated practicality and fast adaptability to suit patients’ needs and fits easily into the pediatric behavioral health care model. Research reports view telemental health as a practical way to address the shortage of professional therapists trained to help children. See’s online course Pediatric Telemedicine, Telehealth & Teletherapy: Practicing with Children & Adolescents for specialized telehealth training to work with this population using telehealth tools.

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