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What May Change At Your Next Pediatrician Visit

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Pediatricians are being asked to do more with the same or less time, but the new guidelines for assessment during a preventative care visit can help more children stay healthy, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The AAP has released new recommendations about what should be included in an average well-child visit, effective immediately. This is the third update in 21 months, as the Academy works to provide new tools to physicians that can make visits more productive.

Here's what you may notice differs from your past routine visits:

1. Pediatricians are doing less vision screening for older children.

If there are vision problems, they are likely to manifest themselves in early childhood. As well, many older children have a separate eye doctor whom they visit, and who can do a comprehensive exam.

Instead, the AAP suggests using instruments to better assess vision in 1- to 2-year-olds, rather than wait until they are old enough to read an eye chart at age 3 or older.

2. Pediatricians are filling the role of dentists.

Because many young children don't yet see a dental professional, the AAP recommends that the pediatrician apply a fluoride varnish to the teeth of kids between 6 months and 5 years of age.

The topical fluoride treatment is easy to apply and can be more effective than oral fluoride supplements, which also help to strength teeth. What's more, the varnish carries less risk of dental fluorosis, an excess of fluoride that shows as spots on the teeth.

The AAP is working with insurance companies to produce a medical billing code separate from the dental code for applying fluoride varnish, so that pediatricians can more effectively bill for this service.

3. Pediatricians are including more routine screenings, especially in older children.

A few new issues should be checked for as part of a well-child exam, especially for pre-teens and teenagers. 

Depression screening is one of the most vital, which can help identify children who are considering suicide and get them help. One in 100,000 children ages 10 to 14 commits suicide every year, and 7 in 100,000 youth ages 15 to 19 do the same. Careful pediatric screening may help save some of these lives.

Additional screening tests include those for:

  • Anemia, or low iron, in children between 15 and 30 months
  • Dyslipidemia, or high cholesterol, in teens
  • Congenital heart disease with a pulse oximeter in all ages
  • Drug or alcohol use in teens
  • Cervical dysplasia, which assesses abnormalities that may indicate cervical cancer or pre-cancer, in teens
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), in teens older than age 16

Talk to your pediatrician, such as at Willow Oak Pediatrics, about recommended screening tests for your child.