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September 2021

Mother and child talking to lady on screen during telehealth appointment jpeg
A telehealth appointment with RCH clinician Joanna Lawrence.

Survey investigates telehealth for children

The latest Royal Children’s Hospital National Child Health Poll explores the views, behaviours and experiences of Australian parents about the use of telehealth for their children over the past year.

The most recent survey of 1,981 parents found that while more than one in four Australian children have had a telehealth appointment over the past 12 months, a surprising one in five parents were still not aware that telehealth was a healthcare option for their child.

Most telehealth appoint-

ments were for GPs and most parents – 92 per cent – said they would use it again.

The convenience of telehealth services was particularly noted with parents appreciating less time spent away from work and school.

While Australian families have found telehealth to be a convenient solution to the challenges of accessing healthcare during the pandemic, many were not getting the most out of the experience with parents opting to dial in for their child’s appointment while driving or while out at the shops.

The poll also highlighted concerns some parents have around telehealth care not being as good as in-person care – 79 per cent – and worries about data security and privacy – 61 per cent.

Parents also noted challenges finding a quiet or private place for the appointment – 49 per cent – and difficulties using the technology – 44 per cent.

Reassuringly, most families – 67 per cent – who have had experiences using telehealth said they felt the care they received online was just as good as what they would have received face-to-face and almost all would consider using it again – 92 per cent. 

Paediatrician and poll director Anthea Rhodes said it was timely to consider the future of telehealth beyond the pandemic.

‘The data from this latest poll shows strong evidence that parents see and understand the benefits of telehealth.

‘Telehealth is not a replacement for face-to-face care and it’s important to remember that telehealth should only be used where it is medically-appropriate, depending on the child, their circumstances and the reason for seeking healthcare,’ Dr Rhodes said.

‘Often, telehealth is a great alternative for follow-up appointments where an initial diagnosis has already been confirmed and an established relationship exists between the patient and healthcare provider.’

• For more information visit https://www.rchpoll.org.au/polls/telehealth-for-kids-experiences-of-australian-parents/.