Even with all the benefits telemedicine for children provides, there are still several potential challenges. For one, most experts agree that in-person care is still better than a virtual visit: The AAP even has said that a pediatrician's office is the best place for children to receive care. However, the AAP also supports making care as accessible as possible to all children.
Pediatric telemedicine does expand care, but the technological requirements can pose a barrier to accessible care in some communities. Many rural areas and some urban areas lack broadband infrastructure or reliable internet connections, which makes it difficult to connect to the remote platforms or apps required for telehealth visits.
Similar to the challenges some children have faced with distance learning, some families also may not have the means to purchase high-speed internet or smartphone devices that connect to the internet. All of these things come at a cost, whether it's paying for a monthly data plan for a phone, standard internet or 5G service in the communities where this advanced connectivity is available. But even when families and providers have standard internet service, they may encounter performance issues, such as high latency that slows or stalls the connection, especially if the network a provider uses doesn't meet the bandwidth requirements for telehealth or if too many people in a hospital or healthcare center are trying to access the network at one time.
Another issue with telehealth is that these services may not be suitable for every condition or every patient. The AAP says initial newborn visits, comprehensive physical exams, diagnostic and in-office testing, and hearing, vision, and oral health screenings should still be done in a pediatrician's office. Some healthcare services, including immunizations, can't be done virtually, either, highlighting the inherent limitations of this approach to care.
It's also difficult to replicate the intimacy of the doctor-patient relationship in a remote setting. Along with experience, training and patient engagement, trust is crucial to providing quality care. In-person visits may help to forge and strengthen this trust more so than virtual visits because patients and providers interact face-to-face rather than within the four walls of a screen, which can feel more impersonal.