Recently-adopted social distancing measures have created an unexpected positive outcome: the accelerated adoption of telemedicine
. Telemedicine is the practice of physicians or other healthcare professionals treating patients “virtually” by means of telecommunications, such as video chats, phone calls, or real-time typed chat.
Though implementation of telemedicine has been inconsistent among the healthcare sector as a whole, many individual providers feel that telemedicine is here to stay
. Some employers also recognize the value of treating patients remotely and are specifically seeking healthcare providers who offer telemedicine and other technology-based services as part of their employee health benefits packages
Televisits are not ideal for every scenario, but for patients who can self-report symptoms or whose visits are primarily to acquire information or advice, telemedicine is a convenient alternative.
If you are considering scheduling a telemedicine visit or already have an appointment on the books, a bit of preparation will ensure your visit proceeds smoothly.
Confirm your doctor offers virtual visits
If you don’t currently have a primary care physician, consider selecting one who offers telemedicine visits. For those with an existing primary care doctor, check the website of your physician or healthcare provider to determine if telemedicine is offered and what your co-pay responsibility will be. Download your healthcare provider’s telemedicine app if necessary and follow the app’s instructions for set-up. If your doctor uses a separate online portal, now’s a good time to register. Depending on your provider, you may be able to access test results, request appointment and communicate via secure online portal.
Double-check your set-up
If you have never participated in a video chat before, schedule a test run with a friend using Skype, Facetime, Zoom, or any other video chat app on your phone, tablet, or computer. Make sure your device’s microphone and video camera are enabled and in good working condition. Confirm the person you are talking to can see and hear you well by selecting a well-lit room and positioning yourself sufficiently close to your device.
Write down your symptoms & questions
Before your appointment, it may be helpful to write down your symptoms, noting when they first became apparent and any changes you have noticed over time. Pay particular attention to specific circumstances that seem to trigger or aggravate your symptoms, and what, if anything, has provided relief. Your doctor will be relying on you to report your full scope of symptoms, so make sure to cover everything, even if you’re not certain whether it’s related.
Take photos, if applicable
Conditions that can be diagnosed visually (many skin issues, for example) are particularly well suited for telemedicine. Prior to your appointment, take a photo of the affected area to share with your doctor during your visit. Make sure your photo is well lit and focused (you may need to use a flashlight or additional light source). Include a close-up photo, if possible, to provide greater detail. If you notice your condition changing prior to your telemedicine appointment, take multiple photos over a period of time to demonstrate the change.
Prepare for your call
Give yourself enough time to get settled by positioning yourself at your phone or video set-up at least five minutes prior to your virtual visit. Avoid distractions by selecting a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. If you’re doing a video call, position your computer or mobile device so the strongest light source is positioned in front of your face. If a sunny window or other bright light source is located behind you, close the blinds or adjust your body position to remove the window from your video picture.
During your visit
Speak clearly and candidly with your healthcare provider, just as you would during an in-person visit.
Keep any medical devices you use (ex. blood pressure monitor, glucose tester) and names of medications you’re currently taking handy, in case your doctor wants to reference them specifically. If you have any questions at the end of your appointment, be sure to ask. If you do have follow-up questions after your appointment, contact your doctor’s office or use your healthcare provider’s online portal to reach out.
Not all issues are suitable for telemedicine
Though telemedicine works well for clear-cut issues such as medication refills, visible skin problems, or contraception questions, televisits are not ideal for all scenarios. Complex issues, emergencies, or urgent needs such as broken bones, severe burns, or deep cuts should still be treated in the emergency room or urgent care center. Routine preventative care such as pap smears, colonoscopies, and mammograms are also not suitable for treatment via telemedicine and will require an in-person visit to your doctor when it’s safe to do so.
The widespread adoption of telemedicine is providing greater convenience for patients who are able to connect to their doctors without ever leaving home. More and more employee health benefits packages
are specifically including telemedicine visits to help employees stay healthy, even while balancing busy schedules. If you need to see a doctor for a routine visit, telemedicine might become your go-to “office visit” of choice.
To learn more about how the right employee health benefits boost productivity and retention, contact our team of HR specialists.