Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2019
Laura Landro


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[...] With a rising number of teens and adolescents suffering from depression and anxiety, and too few professionals to help, remote video consults are helping pediatricians fill the gap in some communities. In recent years, more health providers have been turning to telemedicine for adult mental-health services, offering remote, real-time video and audio appointments with a psychiatrist or counselor for patients who don’t have easy access to care. School systems, universities and health-care providers are now testing out such programs for children and teens.

Chesterfield, Mo.-based Mercy is a large health system that includes hospitals, clinics and physician practices. Mercy has trained nearly 250 of its pediatricians and family medicine specialists in neighboring states to diagnose the most common conditions such as ADHD, depression, anxiety and oppositional defiant disorder.

Mercy’s electronic-medical-records system has links to tools and algorithms to guide doctors through best practices for different conditions and medication-prescribing decisions. The virtual team, meanwhile, can access pediatric patients’ charts and medical history via the same electronic record, so they don’t miss anything important in making a diagnosis, says Kyle John, a Mercy pediatric psychiatrist who leads and helped create the program, known as vMentalWellness Kids.

Some studies show that so-called telepsychiatry is as effective as care delivered in person—and may even be superior to in-person sessions for children with such issues as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Parents, teens and family practitioners report high satisfaction with remote consults and appreciate their convenience and privacy. Remote psychotherapy, behavioral training and prescription-drug therapy can be offered through doctors’ offices, schools, correctional facilities and homes.

Still, the virtual option isn’t a catch-all solution. [...]

children's health health information technology medical safety mental health public health