As more doctors’ offices move toward telehealth for appointments that can be held remotely, patients should know how to prepare for a virtual visit.
Even under normal circumstances, telehealth appointments offer specific advantages. During the COVID-19 pandemic these advantages are especially beneficial as patients try to comply with social distancing and stay at home precautions.
“There are many benefits to telemedicine,” says Sirisha Mohan, MD, a family medicine specialist at Keck Medicine of USC and clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Everything from saving money with parking, to saving a ride share, to not having to take maybe the whole day off work, but being able to — in real time — see your doctor when you need them.”
Keep these tips handy for the next appointment that you or your loved one may attend from the comfort of your own home.
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1. Don’t let technology derail the visit.
Make sure you have all the right software and/or hardware before the visit. Ask a relative or friend for help setting up your computer, tablet or mobile phone if you don’t feel up for the task. Test technology ahead of time if possible and download/install any updates so you don’t lose precious face time with your caregiver. Turn off other programs that might disrupt the visit with notifications. Also make sure that your devices are charged, volume is at an appropriate level and the microphone picks up your voice clearly.
Plan for your appointment like you would an in-person visit: Write down any symptoms you’re experiencing, make a list of questions you want answered and have your medical history readily available if this is a new caregiver or medical team you’re seeing.
2. Set the scene.
Find a quiet place to talk that will allow you a measure of privacy and a secure internet connection. Although a wired internet connection is preferred, if the most private place in the house is a closet or pantry, make sure your Wi-Fi connection reaches that far and will support a video conference. The area should be well-lit and allow you to have the camera at eye level, so you can have a direct conversation with your care provider as if you were in the same room.
3. Take notes.
Remember to write down any directions or treatment plans the doctor shares. Since you won’t be handed a physical prescription at the end of the visit, with directions on how to take any medication or with the next steps to follow in your treatment journey, you’ll need to have a pen and paper handy, or have access to your electronic medical chart, if available. Remember to make sure you have a pharmacy on file with the office; they will know where to send the electronic prescription and you will know where to go to pick up your medications.
4. Give feedback after your visit.
Let the team know what went right, what could be improved and if there are any ways the team can support your future telehealth visits.
5. Be patient.
Most importantly, have patience with the process! If you are not comfortable with technology or find that it’s difficult to communicate naturally with the care team, ask a trusted relative or friend to help troubleshoot any technical issues, or sit in on future appointments to smooth over any communication mishaps due to connectivity issues. While it may seem scary at first, telemedicine could provide convenient access to medical care when you need it most.
“Telemedicine is allowing us to connect with anyone who is struggling with either mental or physical health issues at this time. Sick or healthy, please reach out. Your doctors want to know how you are doing,” Mohan says.
by Melissa Masatani