Smartphones can make parenting much more convenient. You no longer have to remember the way to every friend’s house, you can set reminders for when to pick your children up from activities and you can easily talk to your child when they are away with a simple text.

Getting help for your sick child is one thing that the Internet may also make easier. You might even do an entire doctor’s appointment online. But is it as good as going to the doctor’s office in person?

“Telemedicine” is a growing industry

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that online doctors are becoming more popular. Getting healthcare via your smartphone is still less common than going into the office—but it is gaining more ground.

Around 96% of insurance plans that large businesses offer their employees include coverage for telemedicine. New patients who might not have gone to the hospital are more likely to use these services. In an age where we can get just about anything delivered with just a tap, it’s no surprise that people are taking advantage of online healthcare too.

Online medicine is convenient, but risky

The NIH study also compared the accuracy of telemedicine diagnoses compared to in-person doctor visits. When looking at children whose doctors prescribed them medication for respiratory infections, online care providers gave out prescription antibiotics to 52% of patients. In-person visits to a primary care provider led to such prescriptions only 31% of the time—even though thousands more patients used this option.

Some experts warn against using telemedicine when your child is sick. A few reasons that the American Academy of Pediatrics gives are that:

  • There is no physical examination
  • Access to patient records may be limited
  • Privacy is not always guaranteed over the Internet
  • Your relationship with the doctor might not be as strong
  • Children can’t always accurately describe their symptoms—the doctor might have to guess

When your child is sick, your primary goal is to help them get better. It might seem convenient to get help from the comfort of your own home. But to avoid unnecessary medication or even a misdiagnosis, you may want to consider taking your child to see a doctor in person.