COVID-19 has changed the way we do just about everything. The way we interact with friends and family, how we work, our trips to the grocery store, and how kids learn, just to name a few. It’s also changing how people get health care. Thankfully technology has allowed us to maintain and create meaningful connections during this pandemic.
Fear has caused many people to delay important and even life-saving medical care, but for most, doctor’s appointment is just a click away. If you have a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer with internet connectivity, it can be quite easy for you to see your doctor online from the comfort of your home. Telemedicine has also proven to be extremely convenient for the patients. There’s no need to get in your car or even change out of your comfy clothes. You don’t have to sit in a waiting room either.
Although telemedicine cannot provide the appropriate care in all situations, it can address a range of health needs while allowing for maintaining social distancing. Telemedicine can be used for the following:
- Urgent care, such as an evaluation of possible COVID-19 infection
- Medication management
- Diabetes management
- Review of labs and other diagnostic tests
- Consultations with specialists
An online visit or phone consultation also works well when you have questions about minor illnesses or need to check in with your doctor who may be treating you for ongoing conditions.
Sometimes online visits are adequate for an initial evaluation with a new primary care provider or specialist. More often however, online visits work best when following up with a provider who knows you and has a good understanding of your overall health needs. “An online visit can allow your physician to follow up on ongoing problems and can frequently substitute for an in-person visit when your physician is evaluating you for a new problem,” says Robert Giacobbe, DO, medical director of Harbor View Medical Services. He adds, “It obviously doesn’t allow your physician to perform a physical examination, such as listening to your heart and lungs and examining your belly. Since these techniques can be extremely important in making a proper diagnosis, there will be times when your physician will want to see you in person.”
Just like an in-person visit with your physician, you’ll get more out of your appointment if you plan ahead. Here’s how to get the most out of your telehealth appointment:
- Make sure to follow instructions for downloading any software or applications required in advance of your appointment.
- Check your device’s camera, microphone and speakers ahead of time too. Make sure you set your camera at eye level to make it easier for your doctor to see you and talk with you.
- If you’re using a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet, make sure you have a strong Wi-Fi connection and that your device is fully charged.
- Find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted.
- Let your doctor know if there is another person in the room during your appointment. It’s ok to have someone there to help you remember the conversation or take notes on your recommended next steps of care.
- Just like any other appointment, be ready to talk about the reason for your visit, including any symptoms you may be experiencing or medications you’re taking. It’s always helpful to have your medications near you during the call. This way, if there’s a question about what medicine you’re taking, you and your doctor can see exactly what it is.
- Make sure to follow up as your doctor recommends. That could mean another virtual visit, an in-person visit, lab work or imaging tests.
- Keep in touch. If your symptoms change or worsen, make sure you have the appropriate contact information to reach your physician if you have follow-up questions or concerns.