Digital approaches to remote pediatric health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic: Existing evidence and a call for further research

Sherif M. Badawy*, Ana Radovic

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations

Abstract

The global spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak poses a public health threat and has affected people worldwide in various unprecedented ways, both personally and professionally. There is no question that the current global COVID-19 crisis, now more than ever, is underscoring the importance of leveraging digital approaches to optimize pediatric health care delivery in the era of this pandemic. In this perspective piece, we highlight some of the available digital approaches that have been and can continue to be used to streamline remote pediatric patient care in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, including but not limited to telemedicine. JMIR Pediatrics and Parenting is currently publishing a COVID-19 special theme issue in which investigators can share their interim and final research data related to digital approaches to remote pediatric health care delivery in different settings. The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly transformed health care systems worldwide, with significant variations and innovations in adaptation. There has been rapid expansion of the leveraging and optimization of digital approaches to health care delivery, particularly integrated telemedicine and virtual health. Digital approaches have played and will play major roles as invaluable and reliable resources to overcome restrictions and challenges imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and to increase access to effective, accessible, and consumer-friendly care for more patients and families. However, a number of challenges remain to be addressed, and further research is needed. Optimizing digital approaches to health care delivery and integrating them into the public health response will be an ongoing process during the current COVID-19 outbreak and during other possible future pandemics. Regulatory changes are essential to support the safe and wide adoption of these approaches. Involving all relevant stakeholders in addressing current and future challenges as well as logistical, technological, and financial barriers will be key for success. Future studies should consider evaluating the following research areas related to telemedicine and other digital approaches: cost-effectiveness and return on investment; impact on quality of care; balance in use and number of visits needed for the management of both acute illness and chronic health conditions; system readiness for further adoption in other settings, such as inpatient services, subspecialist consultations, and rural areas; ongoing user-centered evaluations, with feedback from patients, families, and health care providers; strategies to optimize health equity and address disparities in access to care related to race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, immigration status, and rural communities; privacy and security concerns for protected health information with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-secured programs; confidentiality issues for some specific populations, especially adolescents and those in need of mental health services; early detection of exposure to violence and child neglect; and integration of training into undergraduate and graduate medical education and subspecialty fellowships. Addressing these research areas is essential to understanding the benefits, sustainability, safety, and optimization strategies of telemedicine and other digital approaches as key parts of modern health care delivery. These efforts will inform long-term adoption of these approaches with expanded dissemination and implementation efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20049
JournalJMIR Pediatrics and Parenting
Volume3
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • COVID-19
  • Children
  • Coronavirus
  • Digital
  • Digital health
  • Digital medicine
  • EHealth
  • Health care delivery
  • Interventions
  • MHealth
  • Mobile health
  • Outbreak
  • Pandemic
  • Pediatric
  • Public health
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Telehealth
  • Telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Health Informatics
  • Biomedical Engineering

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