Getting the Most Out of a Telemed Visit
If you have a medical issue or it’s time for your annual physical, the staff in your medical provider’s office may recommend a telemedicine appointment. Also known as virtual visit or telehealth appointment, telemedicine allows you to meet with your provider by using the video chat function on an Internet-enabled computer, laptop, or smartphone. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of this new type of appointment.
Before you agree to a telehealth appointment, be sure that you know how your insurance will cover it. Most insurers are covering telemedicine appointments in the same way as in-person ones. The office staff likely has the information on hand and can share it with your readily. If you’re unsure, it’s wise to call your insurance provider in advance. During scheduling, the office staff will also provide basic instructions, including when you can expect to receive an e-mail or text link, which will connect you to your provider.
Between scheduling your appointment and sitting down for your virtual meeting, there are a few things you can do to prepare. Many of the preparation steps are the same as you would do for any appointment. For instance, you may want to think about what you will wear. If you have a rash on your upper arm, you will likely want to wear a top that allows you to show the rash easily, when you lift your sleeve.
The most crucial tools for a patient in both in-person and remote appointments is a pen and paper. It is useful before, during, and after your appointment. Before your appointment, list your primary reason for the appointment and what you hope to accomplish. Note your symptoms, most severe first, and their characteristics, including how long you have felt each, their intensity, and duration. Make a list of the medications you are taking, including supplements. Finally, note any questions you have for the provider.
The notebook will also be helpful to note any instructions you are given during the appointment. If you feel like you might have difficulty remembering or noting instructions, ask a trusted friend or family member to accompany you to the virtual appointment.
Telemedicine appointments do require a few extra steps. Be sure your device is either charged or plugged in. Find a quiet place, where you can minimize interruptions from pets or family members. Turn off the television and radio. Good lighting is important. The best light comes in through a window. If possible, position your device so that the light of a window falls on your face. If you’re unsure whether there will be enough light for the provider to examine a skin condition, for instance, having a flashlight nearby can help.
Just as you arrive early to your in-office appointment, arriving a few minutes early is beneficial. It will provide the extra time you need to review your notes. Remember, there is no car or waiting-room time to reflect on what you need to accomplish. Close any open programs running on your device.
When you click the link, you’ll be connected. For appointments with SVMC providers, this link is all you need. There is no software to download. It is very easy. Note that you may need to click to indicate that you provide permission for the program to access your camera and microphone.
A good telemedicine appointment accomplishes everything that an in-person appointment does, only it’s more convenient for you. If you feel that you are not getting everything you need out of the appointment, speak up. Your provider is there to help. Once you disconnect, you can simply relax! After all, you’re already home.
Bob Schwartz, MD, is a family medicine physician at SVMC Northshire Campus and associate medical director of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam Physicians.