Making the Most of your Telehealth Appointment
In their community practice, Family Medicine Physicians Andrea Arellano Vu, MD, and Kenny Vu, MD, had been exploring an avenue to treat patients who couldn’t easily come in to the office, due to work schedules, transportation issues, being bed-bound, having anxiety over leaving home, or any number of other challenges. Well before the COVID-19 outbreak, they had looked into telehealth options and were ready when they needed to accelerate these plans into action in mid-March.
Dr. Arellano Vu said it’s important that a virtual visit be as meaningful and productive as possible for the patient. Some preparatory steps can help you get acclimated to the process and set the stage for a successful experience. Here are five tips she offers for patients to make the most of their telehealth appointment.
- Get clear instructions for the telehealth platform. Your doctor’s office should clearly explain the system they are using, assure you that it’s secure, and get your consent. Ask their staff to walk you through the steps to use it, if you feel unsure, or to help troubleshoot if you run into a technical problem.
- Do your medical prep work in advance. Prior to your appointment, it’s helpful to check and make note of your temperature, pulse, weight—and for some patients, blood pressure or sugar levels too—so you can share this with your provider. Many people like to have a written list of symptoms or questions to ask, just as they would for an in-person visit, to make sure the important topics are covered. Have your medications out or a list of those you’re taking prepared. If you have a skin rash or mole you want the doctor to check out, take and send a photo beforehand since it may not be seen as clearly on video.
- Test your technology. Have your computer, tablet or mobile device fully charged. You might want to do a test run ahead of time to make sure you can access the site and login without issue. Check the speaker volume and wear headphones if there’s an echo.
- Prepare an appropriate set-up. Find a comfortable space free of surrounding noise and distractions and with good lighting. For example, the camera shouldn’t face a light source, or it will be hard to see your face. If necessary, prop up the device so it’s stable and you’re in full view in the screen. Some patients may want to have a caregiver present or nearby to assist in sharing information or making note of guidance provided.
- Get an after-visit summary and give feedback. Your doctor’s office may supply details of your telehealth visit or you can ask for a recap of the important points and specific care instructions or next steps. Share your input on how the appointment worked for you. This can be helpful in enhancing your telehealth experiences in the future.