The field of pediatrics grows almost as fast as the patients being treated. Trends that were once cutting-edge soon become outdated, so it’s vital to stay on top of what is new in the industry. Some of the areas experiencing the most growth are telemedicine, studying obesity, e-cigarette and nicotine addiction, genomics, and increased patient engagement. While some of these areas are extensions of longstanding goals in pediatrics, others reflect an industry that is evolving to address and take advantage of technological developments.
One of the barriers to providing pediatric care, particularly when it comes to specialists, is logistics. There are a limited number of pediatric physicians and they can only be in one place at a time. They are often concentrated in large cities, which has historically presented a problem for patients in rural medicine.
The rise of telemedicine has changed that dynamic. People can get opinions in real time, even from doctors that are far away. Smartphones and tablets can be used to provide visual information and the rise of electronic health records means maintaining data is now easier than ever.
“Childhood obesity costs the country $14 billion annually.”
By nearly any measure, obesity is one of the greatest health risks to today’s children. The number of obese children in the United States has doubled over the past 30 years, while the number of obese adolescents has quadrupled in that same amount of time. In 2012, more than one-third of young people were categorized as obese, which creates lasting health risks: 70 percent of that group will grow up to be overweight as adults.
For pediatricians, these sobering facts make combating childhood obesity a primary focus of their community outreach. There is also a strong economic incentive: Childhood obesity is estimated to cost the country $14 billion every year.
While e-cigarettes have been around in some form or another for decades, they have only recently gained a strong cultural foothold. Because of this, there is little research into the dangers they pose, particularly to children. This is especially concerning since a 2013 release from the Centers of Disease Control stated that 1.78 million middle and high school students had tried them.
In addition to further research of the potential risks of e-cigarettes, some organizations are pushing for bans on the sale or marketing of them to minors, as well as legislation to bring them in line with current smoke-free mandates.
The Human Genome Project was completed in 2000 and has begun to bear clinical fruit. Sequencing is finally resource-effective for many practices, and its use is poised to transform genetic diagnosis.
In Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Hospital, for example, physicians can use genomics to diagnose and help treat newborns in as little as 50 hours. Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee has formed a sequencing clinic to help treat unknown illnesses. These sorts of developments have greatly increased the need for genetic counselors capable of interpreting and using the available information.
Increased Patient Engagement
Information is exchanged more quickly today than it was in the past. That has created a generation of patients that are used to sharing and seeking knowledge online and who can take a more active role in their own care. Treatment is more of a two-way street than ever before.
In pediatrics, this allows parents to help care for their children outside of the confines of the doctor’s office. Doctors can provide reminders about checkups and vaccinations and parents can in turn provide ongoing feedback about the efficacy of courses of treatment.
For more information on current trends in pediatrics, please see the new edition of CURRENT Diagnosis and Treatment Pediatrics, 23e.
CURRENT Diagnosis and Treatment Pediatrics, along with other leading pediatrics references, are also available on AccessPediatrics.Tags: patient engagement, pediatrics, new trends in pediatrics, childhood obesity