In response to the pandemic, many medical facilities have turned to telemedicine as a way for patients to safely access their health care and reduce the risk of spreading the virus. With telemedicine (also known as telehealth), health care professionals can consult with their patients virtually for non-emergency medical concerns using phone, email, or video-conferencing tools.
Whether you need to renew a prescription, schedule a routine visit, or manage a chronic condition, telemedicine can help you do so safely from the comfort of your own home. Here’s a step-by-step guide to prepare for your virtual visit.
Learn what options your doctor offers. While most medical facilities have shifted to telemedicine, not all medical facilities will provide these services. The first step you’ll want to take is contacting your provider to determine whether telehealth options are available. Here are some additional considerations you’ll want to keep in mind when talking to your medical provider.
Discuss your symptoms or health concerns with your provider before scheduling an appointment to confirm your specific medical need can be treated effectively using telehealth.
Determine whether your appointment will be done via phone or video and ask about any technology you’ll need to have in place before your appointment. Some providers may require you to download an app or create a new account.
If your telehealth appointment requires video conferencing, determine what platform will be used during your visit. Confirm that the telehealth platforms are HIPAA compliant and support encryption to protect your personal data.
Check your health plan. Before scheduling your appointment, check with your insurance provider to ensure your telehealth visit will be covered to avoid any unexpected charges. Coverage will be determined by your specific insurance policy, in addition to state and federal laws. Due to the coronavirus, most state laws provide some form of reimbursement for telehealth services; however, these laws are continually changing, so you’ll want to stay up-to-date.
Write down your symptoms. There are limitations to telehealth visits since your provider can’t provide you with a full physical examination, such as listening to your lungs or performing laboratory tests. You’ll want to make sure you describe your symptoms and medical concerns in as much detail as possible so your doctor can properly evaluate your condition. Here are a few tips to prepare for your appointment.
Fill out any online paperwork as soon as possible and have your medical history ready to discuss.
Make a list of any current symptoms, how long they’ve been present, and the level of severity.
If possible, check your vital signs right before your appointment, such as your blood pressure, temperature, pulse rate, and breathing rate. Provide this data to your doctor at the beginning of your visit.
Take photos of any skin conditions you may be concerned about.
Write down any questions you have for your doctor ahead of your appointment.
Show up early for your appointment. If you have a video call scheduled, plan to show up 15 minutes early to provide extra time to troubleshoot any technical issues that may come up. You’ll most likely be placed in a virtual waiting room until your appointment begins. If your doctor is calling you at the appointment time, make sure your phone is configured to receive calls from an unknown number.
Remember, your telehealth appointment will be much like a regular office visit, just with the added benefit of being able to receive care from the safety and convenience of your own home. Telehealth can help reduce barriers for individuals who live farther away from services, and it can be especially beneficial for parents with busy schedules. Doctors’ offices and hospitals have also made significant changes to make their offices safe for in-person visits. So between in-person office visit protocols and telemedicine options, the most important thing is to not put things off and continue to receive care for your routine medical needs as well as urgent or emergent conditions. For more information and resources related to telehealth, check out this guide from the CDC.