Study Finds Higher Telehealth Use Among Children With Chronic Conditions

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that only 14.1% of children utilized telemedicine in the second half of 2020 as a result of the pandemic, however, utilization was higher among those with disabilities, developmental conditions, and asthma. The CDC launched the study in order to assess the effect of telemedicine on the pediatric population. To do this, the CDC gathered information from a National Health Interview Survey including data between July and December 2020 and assessed the frequency of use and types of cases that most frequently appeared in virtual environments. The CDC investigated whether a child engaged in a visit via audio or video platforms and whether the virtual visit took place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the data, in the last 12 months, which covered a time before the coronavirus pandemic, 12.6 million children, or 17.5 percent, used telemedicine overall. The COVID-19 pandemic caused around 10.2 million children, or 14.1 percent, to use telemedicine. The results showed that chronic conditions, parents’ educational achievements, household income, and place of residence were corresponding factors relating to telemedicine. Due to the pandemic, 23.5 percent of children with asthma and 13.6 percent of those without asthma used telemedicine. Similar to this, 32.5 percent and 29.8 percent, of children with a present developmental condition and a disability used telemedicine, respectively. This was noticeably higher than the 11.4 percent of children without a disability and the 11.1 percent of adolescents without a developmental issue who used telehealth over the same time period. 

Furthermore, the study found that children from families with earnings below the federal poverty line used telehealth the most frequently. Moreover, 18.3 percent of children whose parents had a degree or greater than a high school diploma participated in telemedicine compared to 15.4 percent of children whose families simply had a general equivalency diploma. 18.6 percent of telehealth users were located in large metropolitan areas, as opposed to 13.1 percent of users in non-metropolitan areas.

The researchers did note the study’s limitations including the possibility of bias, a lack of data on the number of appointments, and the standard of treatment. However, they argue that the nationally representative estimates of children’s telemedicine utilization can act as a useful tool for finding the next steps for national programs and highlighting the areas that stand to gain the most from telemedicine.