Preparing for a Telehealth Visit

As doctors, nurse practitioners and therapists try to keep patients safe at home and use fewer hospital resources, more routine visits will be conducted virtually through a telehealth appointment.  But for those who aren’t familiar with using technology or are uncertain about what to expect, here’s a primer on making the most out of your telemedicine visit. 

Check first if your regular doctor is offering virtual visits, if you don’t have a doctor, try to schedule an appointment or contact a trusted walk-in clinic or urgent care center that may also be providing telehealth visits.  Start by calling or visiting the clinic website for more information.  

Emergencies like the symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, serious difficulty breathing or sudden confusion should be evaluated immediately in person.  Call 911 first for emergency room instructions or to have a paramedic sent directly to you or your loved one.   Call your doctor for urgent care of minor injuries, high fever or new pain.  

Be prepared for a virtual healthcare visit by writing down any symptoms, how long they have been experienced and any changes in health.  To avoid unexpected health care expenses be sure to ask if calls are being billed as appointments.   Patients can also smooth their video-chat healthcare visits by practicing ahead of time with a friend or family member to work out any of the technological bugs.  

For any skin issues, like rashes or bites, it may be helpful to take a picture to share with your healthcare practitioner during the visit.  Upload any photos to your tablet or computer in advance to save precious time and frustration.  Find a quiet space for your appointment where you won’t be interrupted or distracted and have a pen and paper handy to make notes during the call. 

Many doctors now have patient portals; if you haven’t set up your profile yet, this is a good time to get it up and running.   Patients can log in to their profile and view test results, request medication refills and ask simple questions without needing to make an appointment. 

Using an oral thermometer under the tongue is the most accurate way to check for a fever; seniors may have lower body temperature than younger people so it’s important to establish a baseline of what’s normal for each individual.  If your temperature reaches 103 F, seek medical attention, calling your doctor or emergency room first. 

Diabetics should have a glucometer to keep track of blood sugar levels and a blood pressure cuff can help people with high blood pressure make sure their medications are doing their job properly.  Patients with heart failure that causes fluid retention should weigh themselves daily to track any changes that may be a concern.  

Preventative procedures like colonoscopies or mammograms are best delayed until after the threat of COVID-19 has resolved and many elective surgeries may have also been postponed to protect patients and lift the burden on hospitals and health care workers.  

Stay safe and when in doubt about any health care issues, call your doctor for more information and instructions.