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Telemedicine may lead to antibiotic overprescription for kids

April 8 (UPI) — Doctors may be overprescribing medication for children during telemedicine visits, a new study says.

Children who used telemedicine were prescribed antibiotics during 52 percent of sessions, according to new research published in April in Pediatrics. That’s compared to kids who visited kids who received prescriptions during 42 percent of urgent care visits and 31 percent who received them during primary care provider visits.

“In recent years, the use of telemedicine for acute, primary care concerns has increased among children, said Kristin Ray, a researcher at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and study lead author, in a news release. “We know very little about the care children receive during these direct-to-consumer telemedicine visits, which occur during with doctors outside of the child’s usual pediatric office.”

The researcher compared antibiotic prescriptions given for acute respiratory infections during telemedicine visits with those prescribed during primary care and urgent care visits.

Regardless of its effectiveness, the practice of consulting with doctors over the internet has caught on among all age groups. Another study reported that 90 percent of patients prefer telemedicine visits over traditional in-person conversations with a doctor.

And insurers have responded to the popularity of telemedicine.

“Insurers are increasingly offering telemedicine — with 96 percent of large business insurance plans now offering coverage — and as a result, millions of children now have access, and our prior work found that use is rapidly increasing,” Ray said.

However, the researchers suggest prescriptions given during telemedicine visits are less likely to meet clinical guidelines and overprescribing could lead to antibiotic resistance.

“As a general pediatrician, I’m interested in making care easier and less burdensome for families, and I think there are many technological innovations that aim to do this, but I think it is also to make sure the quality of care that children receive remains high,” Ray said.

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