Telemedicine and telehealth have helped people everywhere during the COVID-19 pandemic. With physical distancing measures in place, many patients and doctors were compelled to communicate over the telephone for everyone’s health and safety.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine is a term that covers the methods patients and doctors can use to communicate without being in the same room. Potential methods of communication include video chat, emails, text message and regular phone calls. Many terms are interchangeably used for telehealth, such as digital medicine, e-health, or mobile health.
How does telemedicine work?
If you called your doctor’s office during the COVID-19 pandemic and were notified that the doctor is not seeing any patient in the office, the alternative offered must have been a telephone conversation. This convenient method enabled patients to discuss their symptoms and concerns with their family doctor over the phone. Some of the common reasons why patients reach out for telemedicine:
- A pandemic that results in physical distancing
- If you live extremely far from the doctor’s office
- If you have symptoms that require urgent care
- If you can not reach the medical offices due to a health concern
- You need real-time medical help
If patients qualify for a virtual appointment, your healthcare provider will either arrange for a patient portal where you sign in with a username and password or you will have a remote appointment. That allows the patient to speak with the doctor over a phone call or a video conference.
When doctors offer patient care that is virtual or remote, how can you make sure you get the most out of this time? Doctor’s usually allot patients a limited time frame and so its important for a patient to prepare beforehand for a quality conversation.
Here are a few tips that can help you prepare for a telemedicine appointment:
Choose a Quiet Place:
It is not a good idea to scramble for the right spot at the last moment. If you live with other family members it is important to find a quiet place where you talk to the doctor comfortably. Before the doctor’s telemedicine appointment, choose a quiet spot in the house for your privacy. If you want your family caregiver to sit in during the virtual appointment you could ask them to join.
Prepare your medical history:
It is extremely beneficial to have your medical history with you in case this is your first virtual appointment with a new doctor or if you have been newly referred to a specialist. Specialists usually ask for your medical history to get to know their patients better and to prescribe the right medication. Your doctor may ask you about your lifestyle, family history, medicines, nature of work so make sure you have all the information with you.
Write Down Your List of Questions:
Due to time constraints virtual or telemedicine appointments may not go as planned so make sure you have your questions ready. If you feel the time is running out and your question needs to be addressed, request your doctor to address that before the call ends. You may have a lot of concerns or questions about medications, their potential side effects, or maybe a lifestyle question? These are all valid concerns so do not hesitate to ask!
Check Your List of Medications:
If this appointment is with your family doctor, make sure you have a list of medications that need a refill. It is quite common for people to remember important details after the call is over. Having written notes will help you or caregivers effectively organize the meeting. Prescription medicines are far too important to be forgotten!
Keep Your Blood Pressure Readings:
Your family physician may ask if you monitor your blood pressure. This is especially true for hypertensive patients whose blood pressure tends to elevate. Having a record of your blood pressure readings will help your doctor determine the right course of action and suggestions. During normal visits to the doctor’s office, these things are managed by the doctor but since this is a telemedicine call, you as a patient will have to be prepared preemptively.
Keep Your Documents Ready:
For new appointments, the doctor’s office may ask for a health card or insurance information. It’s always recommended to keep all documents with you, so you don’t have to look for them during the telemedicine appointment. Here is a list of documents you should keep ready:
- Health documents
- List of prescriptions
- Pharmacy information
- Insurance document
Write Your Treatment Plan:
While you are discussing your concerns and questions with the doctor, make sure you write down the treatment plan that the doctor has suggested. During the flow of conversation, one may forget to remember an important suggestion or tip, so it’s highly beneficial to write your treatment plan so it is followed for maximum efficacy.
Discuss Your Follow-up Appointment:
When the doctor is wrapping up your telemedicine virtual appointment, do ask them when you need to follow up. Follow up appointments are great to review any changes in your health or to discuss any rising or unexpected concern. There could be a new medication that did not suit you well or maybe you have a senior loved one with chronic health conditions and requires a follow-up? Reach out to your doctor’s assistant to discuss follow-up care.
There are many telemedicine benefits and planning is one of them. Although nothing can replace face to face conversation with your health practitioner but during these difficult times caused by COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth, and telemedicine services have provided us with an effective solution. Do you have any tips to add? Let us know!