Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth (or telemedicine)—healthcare via phone, email, video and other technologies—is moving from a trend to mainstream. In fact, there are a number of ways to take advantage of telehealth, from routine checkups to appointments with specialists to urgent and emergency care. However, it’s important to prepare for your appointment beforehand to make the most of your telehealth appointment.
Write down your symptoms
If you are sick, you need to provide as much information as possible to the doctor or other provider during your telehealth appointment. Make a list of all your symptoms, and how long each one has been present. For instance, if you have or had a fever, be ready to state how long the fever has been present, what the highs and lows of the fever have been, and any medications you took to reduce the fever. If you have a visible symptom, such as a rash, take a photo or be prepared to show the rash to the provider using video.
State any Pre-existing conditions you have
During your telehealth appointment, the medical provider will need your medical history, so write down any pre-existing conditions you have and how long they have been present. (If you have been seeing the same provider for a long time, you may be able to skip an in-depth history, but they will probably ask if anything has changed since your last visit.) Likewise, if you take medication for any of these conditions, list those as well, along with any additional medicines or supplements you currently are taking. Be prepared to present a comprehensive picture of your medical history and current health status for the doctor to properly evaluate your condition.
Put medical devices you have close at hand
If you have a thermometer, blood pressure monitor, glucometer for measuring sugar levels, heart monitor, or even a bathroom scale, have it close by during your telehealth appointment. It’s possible your provider may request a current reading while you are talking, and you don’t want to waste time retrieving these devices during the call. At the very least, take a reading prior to your telehealth visit from each of these devices, if available, and record the reading and the time of the reading in your notes to discuss with the doctor.
Write down questions
Before your telehealth appointment, make a list of all the questions you have for the provider. It can be easy to forget your questions or to get sidetracked during the call, so you want to have these on hand so you address all of your concerns. Have a notepad handy, too, so you can record the doctor’s responses and to make notes regarding the information and instructions the medical provider shares with you during the call.
Find a question spot for your telehealth appointment
You don’t want your virtual appointment interrupted by your roommate, the kids or the dog, so find a quiet spot for your consultation. In addition, turn off the TV or radio so your call is not interrupted by ambient background noise and to reduce distractions during the appointment. In fact, you may want to use ‘earbuds’ or headphones to further reduce outside noise during your call or videoconference.
Prepare your device(s) before hand
By their very nature, telehealth appointments require technology to facilitate the consultation with the medical provider. Whether it’s a cell phone, laptop or desktop computer, make sure it’s fully charged or plugged in, and you have a reliable internet connection. Also, download any required app or software program utilized by the medical provider in advance of the appointment, and set up your account or login information. (The telehealth provider will give you instructions beforehand.) Make sure the lighting is good in the location you want to use for the virtual appointment so the provider can see you clearly.
Be ready for an in-person follow up appointment
While telehealth appointments can be a great way to see a medical provider without leaving your home, there are some cases where an in-person visit is necessary. Therefore, don’t be surprised if the provider directs you to make a follow-up appointment with your local medical provider or, if urgent, to go to the local emergency room or urgent care center. If this turns out to be the case, remember to bring your notes from your telehealth appointment to the in-person appointment so you can advise your medical provider on the information you received during the virtual call.