The doctor will “see you” now

Telehealth (A.K.A. telemedicine) has been around for a long time although many of us are experiencing our first “virtual visit” with our healthcare provider this year. This “live,” 2-way visit usually includes video and audio communication via high speed internet access using a mobile device, tablet, or computer with a web camera. Alternatively, a phone call using a landline telephone can also be considered a televisit.

While not a perfect substitute for in-person healthcare, most people find it to be less stressful, more efficient and less time-consuming, with no need to travel to an office or wait for their provider.

Certain types of appointments are better suited for telehealth such as primary care and follow-up visits, health screenings and wellness visits, medication management check-ins, and behavioral healthcare.

Most insurers have expanded coverage (including Medicare and Medicaid) for telehealth visits. Contact your provider to find out what telehealth options are available for your next appointment.

Making a Telehealth appointment:

  • Contact your provider’s office to determine if a telehealth appointment is an option. In some cases you may be able to make the appointment online on their website.
  • If you are not sure if televisits are covered by your insurer and your provider cannot confirm, call your insurance company or visit the website.
  • If you are scheduled for a telehealth visit, the office provides an app they want you to download. It could be Zoom, Skype or another telehealth app used by their office. They usually send you the link and instructions by text or email in advance so you can download it beforehand.
  • Ask if there are any medical records that your provider needs in advance of the appointment for the doctor’s review and determine how they will be sent.

Prepare for your appointment:

  • Find a quiet (and ideally) private place indoors. Have light in front of you, not in back of you. Avoid sitting in front of a window as it could make it difficult for the doctor to see your face.
  • Consider having someone join you as a scribe, another set of ears and to handle the camera if the provider wants to see you move or view a particular part of your body. 
  • Have a pen and paper handy to write down notes, instructions you are given, and answers to your questions.
  • Write down your questions in advance and be clear on what your goal is for this appointment.
  • Fill out any paperwork and gather any reports, health history, logs and other requested information. Forward to the provider if needed for review in advance, any symptoms or readings you’ve collected.  
  • Ensure your medication list is up to date and any allergies are noted.  You can also place the medication bottles within reach to reference during the call. Have your pharmacy details handy.

Tech Tips:

  • Don’t sit in front of a bright window as it can obscure your face on the provider’s camera. Avoid light behind you from windows or lamps.
  • Download and test the app to be used during your appointment. Check the audio. Make sure your device is charged.
  • If you are using Facetime, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or another accessible platform, you may want to practice before your appointment with your provider by using it during a social visit with a family member or friend.
  • Keep the camera steady. If you are using a phone you may need to prop it up or use a stand.
  • Turn off other streaming applications, music, notifications, etc. during the visit.

During the appointment:

  • Seat yourself facing the screen so your face is in the center and fully visible with the camera at eye level. 
  • Open the app or platform a few minutes before the appointment time or at the time requested by the provider. You may be placed in a virtual ‘waiting room” until the provider is ready to see you.
  • Before starting the visit your provider may ask for your consent to receive services through telehealth.
  • Make sure you can hear the provider well and see their face if using video.
  • Eliminate distractions such as other people, pets, devices. Do not eat or drink during the session.
  • Your provider may ask you to move a certain part of your body, walk on camera, or move so the camera to examine a particular part of your body, depending on the nature of the visit.
  • Be sure to ask your questions and write down the answers. If you don’t understand what is being said to you, ask for clarification before the call ends.
  • Before the call ends, be sure you are clear on any recommendations given, prescriptions ordered and any additional or follow-up appointments or testing to be scheduled. 
  • Know how to reach your provider by phone or email between appointments.
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