A pediatrician at the OU Children’s Hospital discussed the use of televisits to perform autism evaluations on patients, among other things, in an OU Medicine video released Tuesday.
Ami Bax, who specializes in developmental and behavioral pediatrics, said pediatricians at the Children’s Hospital have been interested in telemedicine for some time, and their implementation of televisits has gone well so far.
“What we were never able to see about a child’s environment, we actually now are … being granted access and the privilege of being able to see them function in their home environment,” Bax said.
At the Child Study Center at the Children’s Hospital, Bax said pediatricians see patients with a variety of developmental and behavioral conditions, including autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Bax said when dealing with those conditions, it is important to standardize the toys and tools pediatricians use to test patients to ensure they can compare those results to other patients’ results. However, she said some of those tools aren’t toys patients normally play with, so telemedicine allows doctors to see those patients while they’re comfortable at home.
Bax said there have been some hiccups in executing televisits, such as connectivity issues and families adjusting to using new technology. She said some families have asked to have their visits rescheduled for when they’re able to meet with pediatricians in person.
Bax said, though, that many families, especially those requesting autism evaluations, have been waiting for months — a wait she said carries a significant amount of anxiety.
“(Through) our Jumpstart Interdisciplinary Autism Program, we’ve still been able to do those evaluations and kind of set parents’ minds at ease with giving them that answer of whether their child has autism so that they can go ahead and pursue some of those treatments that are available virtually,” Bax said.
Bax said the Jumpstart Interdisciplinary Autism Program staff is working to build a rapport with patients and make them feel comfortable.
But even so, being in a new place can create discomfort and fatigue, Bax said. Allowing those patients to stay at home through televisits has helped with that.
Virtual assessments for autism or for children who have been prenatally exposed to alcohol or other substances are more effective at younger ages, Bax said. Assessments for older children have proven to be more difficult, so pediatricians are working to find ways to safely evaluate them in person when it’s allowed.
Bax said Children’s Hospital pediatricians are excited to see how telemedicine will be incorporated into their programs in the future, and she thinks televisits will be especially helpful for patients in rural parts of the state.
“We see children from all over the state of Oklahoma at the OU Child Study Center, and it’s difficult to find them local therapists,” Bax said. “We don’t have therapists in all pockets of the state doing the types of therapy that are pretty specifically needed by some children. This opens up lots of doors for those families with rural challenges finding treatment locally.”
Medication management through televisits will also be helpful for patients in rural visits, Bax said. Most telemedicine visits can be done through a smartphone, so a computer often isn’t needed.
All OU pediatric clinics are accepting new patients, Bax said, and any family that’s interested in a certain clinic can call that clinic’s phone number. She said families can research pediatric clinics at the OU Medicine website.
“Most of our (OU pediatric) clinics are equally excited about the potential to expand their ability to serve and provide better access to the pediatric families,” Bax said.