Telehealth and Adolescent Visits

Aaron Grigg, MD, FAAP
Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic – Toppenish

As with many practices, we have started “seeing our patients” over the phone initially with a plan to roll out video visits within the next couple of weeks.  I have to admit I initially had some reservations, but most of my patients have been very comfortable with this and were appreciative to be able to access care without leaving their home during this challenging time.

I was pleasantly surprised to find how talkative my adolescent patients were during the visits.  In fact, during the first week of telephone-only visits, I felt that my first three follow up visits for depression went better in some ways than the in-person visits. While not all patients will be as open to talking over the phone, these patients seemed to find this freeing, as they did not have to face someone as they talk.  They were open about their feelings and we had good conversation.

Some positive suggestions that I have found useful in talking to teens have been:

  1. Making sure the teen has a confidential place to take the phone call
    1. Having them take the phone into their room or outside for the confidential part of the visit
    2. Asking Yes/No questions if you feel that the teen is not in a confidential situation
    3. Giving them alternative methods of asking you questions after the visit via patient portals
  2. Create time to call them back on their own cell phone later if they would prefer this option.

As pediatricians, we have a pivotal role to play in helping our families control the stress level in the home via appropriate messaging regarding risks and mitigating behaviors.  We often sell ourselves short and do not realize how much our families look to us for support.  It can be very empowering for the family to know that they have access to you via telephone or video visit if needed for support.

Editor’s note: You may also find this resource on COVID 19 and Anxiety that Dr. Grigg shared helpful for use with your patients.