Main image courtesy of NPR.
Telemedicine has been growing in popularity recently, especially since the pandemic forced many people to stay at home in order to minimize contact with others and reduce the risk of contracting COVID. As more and more insurance companies and healthcare providers have begun prioritizing virtual visits in their policies and plans, it’s important to know what exactly you should do to prepare for a telehealth appointment.
Telehealth and telemedicine transformed the very concept of the treatment process. Their capabilities boosted communication between the medical staff and patients and made healthcare services more accessible. Besides online appointments, technology also made possible remote patient monitoring with AI-based surveillance, routine post-ops, and follow-ups.
What is telehealth?
Telehealth is basically just your typical healthcare system, but online. Instead of meeting in-person, these appointments take place over secure communication platforms such as Zoom. They follow the same format as traditional appointments and aim to be more accessible and convenient for those who may not have the time or ability to make it to an in-person appointment.
Many providers now follow a hybrid model, which consists of a mixture of in-person and virtual appointments. Patients and medical professionals can discuss what suits their needs best, and adjust as situations change.
Telehealth services range from consultations to therapy sessions, so you can get the treatment that you need without having to worry too much about the high costs of going to in-person appointments, or how you’ll get there if you don’t have reliable transportation to travel there and back. Telehealth has made a major difference in many underserved communities, such as people of color or those who live in rural areas, by making healthcare available even if there are no medical providers near them, which is sadly the case in many areas.
How to set up for a telehealth appointment
The first thing you need to do before a telehealth appointment is identify the device you’ll be attending from. This can be a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, but make sure that it’s fully charged and functional before your appointment.
Next, check that your internet connection is reliable and stable. You don’t want your wifi cutting out in the middle of your appointment, so be sure to test that beforehand. You should also test your camera and microphone to ensure that your provider will be able to see and hear you clearly during the session.
Sit somewhere that has good lighting. Avoid any bright lights or distracting items in the background, and dress appropriately. Once again, stay away from bright colors or anything too distracting.
Be sure you’re sitting somewhere relatively quiet. If you live with others, let them know about your telehealth appointment beforehand so you aren’t distracted or interrupted while talking to your provider.
What you should be prepared for
Have an idea of what you’ll be talking about during your telehealth appointment. If you have a specific question or concern, make sure you address it. Have a list of relevant questions, comments, and concerns by your side during the appointment to make sure that you don’t forget anything.
It’s also helpful to have important information, such as the medications you’re currently taking or any allergies you may have, with you so you don’t waste any time trying to remember or retrieve that information during your appointment.
Be familiar with your answers to questions about your medical history and habits, such as any preexisting conditions you have, your drinking and smoking habits, and your relationships. Always be honest and truthful — your provider is trying to help you, not judge you.
It’s essential to be cognizant of the fact that this medical professional is probably very busy, and you are too. Let them know if you can’t make it beforehand or if you need to make any changes. Be respectful of their time as well as your own and give them your undivided attention. This means that you should avoid doing other things during your appointment, such as eating, running errands, or riding the bus. Set aside some time exclusively for your appointment if you’re able to.
Be communicative. If you’re confused about something, ask for clarification! If you feel uncomfortable about something, let them know! Especially when receiving these services virtually, it’s important to be as candid as possible and communicate effectively and efficiently.
What to do afterwards
Congratulations — you just attended your first telehealth appointment! If this is the case for you, it doesn’t end here. Be sure to stay in touch with your healthcare provider and follow-up on your visit. If you have any lingering questions or concerns, be sure to let them know! Give them your feedback on how the appointment went and work with your provider on treatment options and/or scheduling future visits. The most important thing is for you to continue communicating with them regularly so that everything works out.
Also be sure to get in touch with your insurance company, if you have one. You’ll be able to get more detailed information about copays, deductibles, and charges for the different telehealth services they cover. Coordinating between your healthcare provider and your insurance company can be a lot, but it’s important to make sure that you cover all of your bases.