How to make the most of telehealth visits
Virtual doctors' visits have become commonplace in the wake of COVID-19. With telehealth house calls, doctors' appointments are conducted remotely via video chat or even by phone. Research shows these visits can be as effective -- or even more so -- than in-person care, provided patients and providers are prepared.
So, how can you prepare? These steps will help you make the most of your virtual appointment.
• Know your objective
Is this just a checkup? Are you worried about a new problem or symptom? Most telehealth visits are only about 15 minutes long, so keep the purpose of your appointment front and center.
• Set up your technology in advance
If you're not tech-savvy, have a family member set up your computer or smartphone ahead of time. Test the link if possible. Get comfortable with the process beforehand, so it doesn't become a problem or distraction.
• Choose a conducive setting
Pick a quiet place to talk that's free of distractions -- i.e., no TV blaring in the background. Avoid sitting in front of a window, which will make it hard for your doctor to see you.
• Have your questions, concerns and meds list ready
Write down your concerns in advance, so you don't forget anything. Keep your medications list handy, either to review with your doctor or in case he/she doesn't have access to them during the call.
• Be succinct and honest
It's always important to have a good rapport with your doctor, even and especially when connecting remotely. Don't let the technology throw you, and don't forget to smile.
• Be ready to show parts of your body
Dress accordingly based on the purpose of your visit. For example, if you had a knee replacement, your doctor may ask to see your scar. (Another option is sending photos in advance.)
• Ask a relative or advocate to take notes
Often, patients are so focused on getting their thoughts out, they don't hear or can't remember what the doctor says. Try to have someone with you during the visit to take notes and remind you of any unasked questions.
• Make sure you understand the outcome of the visit
Recap your doctor's instructions verbally at the end of the visit; ask for a written summary from his or her office. It's important to know what your next steps will be.
Sometimes, the doctor may conclude that he or she needs to see you in person, and that's OK. In the meantime, you've saved time and possibly money while limiting your exposure to COVID-19.
If you need an in-person visit, ask what precautions the office is taking and what's expected of you. Wear your mask and observe social distancing -- but by all means, take care of your health.
• Teri Dreher is a board-certified patient advocate. A critical care nurse for more than 30 years, she recently founded Seniors Alone Guardianship & Advocacy Services (SeniorsAlone.org), a not-for-profit organization that serves the area's senior orphans. She also is the founder of NShore Patient Advocates, www.northshorern.com.