Skip to main content

Sonoma Family Life Magazine

6 Ways to Prepare for Your Child’s Telehealth Appointment

By Tanni Haas

As the pandemic drags on, parents are understandably nervous about taking the kids to the doctor’s office for fear that they might catch COVID-19. An alternative to office visits is a telehealth appointment, at which you and the kids virtually meet with the doctor from the safety of your home. How do you best prepare for such visits? Here’s what the experts suggest.

Have information ready. Since you’ll be visiting virtually, you need to assist the doctor by having relevant information at your fingertips before the session begins. This includes, say Claire McCarthy, MD, a pediatrician, and Tamara Perry, MD, a child allergist and immunologist, your kids’ height, weight, and temperature; a list of current medications; and, if it’s a sick visit, details about the issue (when it began, how bad it is, and medications you’ve already tried). If your kids have a rash or another visible ailment, take photos and either upload them to their patient portal ahead of time or be ready to show them to the doctor during the consultation.

Assist the doctor. You can also assist the doctor, McCarthy says, by dressing kids in lightweight clothing—it’ll make it easier for you to lift up their clothes and examine the children per the doctor’s instructions. In addition, make sure that there’s enough space where you’re sitting for the doctor to see, if necessary, your kids walk around and lie down. Have pen and paper on hand so that you can take notes on the diagnosis and treatment plan. Also have at the ready the name, address, and phone number of the pharmacy to which you’d like the doctor to call in any medications.

Prepare the kids. Talk to your kids before the consultation so that they know what to expect, and try to alleviate any anxiety or fears that they may have. Most kids are by now familiar and comfortable with online school instruction, but answering personal questions and talking at length about their health via a computer to a doctor is new to them. “Have a conversation with your child about what remote care is,” says Katherine Martinelli of the Child Mind Institute, “and ask if they have any questions or concerns.” That’ll help put them at ease before the session starts.

Maintain their privacy. Put your kids at ease by making the consultation as private as possible. “Provide a private room if you can,” Martinelli says, “and make sure that siblings and other family members don’t interrupt.” Erica Lee, PhD, a child psychologist, agrees: “Turn on the television or play music at a low volume in the next room, put in headphones, or use a noise machine to create a cocoon of privacy.”

Stay or leave. If your kids are young, stay with them during the consultation; have them on your lap, if possible, to make them feel safe and secure. You may need to answer most of the doctor’s questions for them, or help them explain to the doctor how they’re feeling. If they’re teens, McCarthy says, “leave the room and don’t listen at the door.” Make sure, though, that your teens understand that the same “rules” apply for telehealth appointments as for online school instruction: They should focus on the task at hand and “avoid things like eating a meal or scrolling through social media,” as Martinelli puts it.

Test computer equipment. No matter how familiar you and the kids are with technology, test all the relevant hardware and software prior to the appointment. This includes your laptop or tablet (especially the audio and video), the website or app that the doctor will be using, the Internet browser that supports the website or app (e.g., some only work on Chrome or Firefox), as well as any software that you may have to download and use. “This way,” Martinelli says, “you won’t waste precious minutes dealing with technical difficulties.” 

Tanni Haas, PhD, is a college communications professor.