By now because of COVID-19 most of us may have had a visit with our doctor over a smart device. We have been using telehealth for years even before COVID-19. Telehealth makes it possible for a doctor to treat patients whenever needed and wherever the patient is by using a computer or a smartphone. This type helps to us to practice social distancing. Hospitals are now providing a lot of telehealth services because of COVID-19. Before you start to use these types of services you should contact your insurance company to understand your options. Hospitals also have telehealth options for people who don’t have health insurance.
Telehealth can include general health care, wellness visits, nutritional counseling, mental health sessions, prescription review and even an eye exam. Telehealth can have two doctors working on a case that are hundreds of miles apart.
You will need some equipment to have a telehealth session. A visit to your computer store can help. You’ll need:
1. You’ll need a secure internet connection (broadband). Talk to your internet provider to make sure you have a strong signal.
2. You’ll need a device that supports a video platform.
3. Get some technology support. Your support can help you choose whether to record your interaction (recording device) and choose your peripherals to assist in the visit.
Your televisit is almost like an office visit. To get the most from your telehealth visit you’ll need to prepare for your visit. This preparation should include notes, a detailed history of your problem, questions about your problem, medication history, and any medical records. This type of preparation will increase the chances of your getting the best diagnosis. Good preparation can also help alleviate your anxiety about your talk with your doctor. As you experience your medical problem, keep a journal of your experience. If you feel it might help, enlist a relative or friend to help you get ready for your session. If it makes you feel more comfortable you can also ask them to sit in on your session.
You should be able to give a good history of the medications you are taking, both non-prescription and prescription. The easiest way to provide your medication history is to have all your medications — prescription, non-prescription, vitamins, herbs, minerals, each in its original container in front of you. If it’s a visual visit the doctor will be able to see the medications, dosages, frequency and need for refills. If you’re taking medications regularly, you should keep a card in your wallet or purse with the names of the drugs, dosages and frequency for medical emergencies.
Your doctor’s telehealth session is your opportunity to discuss medical problems and concerns. By preparing for your appointment you will be less likely to waste the opportunity, and more likely to gain a higher degree of satisfaction from the visit. Do your homework. You should make sure any medical records from other physicians are made available virtually. This should include X-rays, MRIs and other scans. Make sure all your doctors communicate, exchange medical records or transfer your records. This may help you avoid repeat diagnostic tests, which carry their own risks and expenses.
You should be prepared to answer the following questions:
Where is the pain most severe?
When did it start?
Does anything trigger it?
Is there anything you could do to bring it on, make it better or make it worse?
Is it present every day, or do you have pain free days?
Is it worst in the morning, as the day goes on, or constant?
On a scale of 1-10, how severe is the pain?
Is it constant or off and on?
Do you have any other symptoms with it, such as chest pain, shortness of breath?
Does the pain stay in one area or spread to other areas?
Does it interfere with your daily routine?
Is it stable, or getting worse?
Are you having trouble sleeping?
How is your appetite?
Are you having trouble with your sex drive?
Is this a new symptom or a recurrence of a previous problem?
Do you have any swelling?
Do you have any vision problems?
Do you have problems with your mood, thinking, anxiety, motivation or depressio
Questions you should ask before the end of your session:
1. What is the problem likely to be, among the possibilities?
2. Are further diagnostic evaluation necessary?
3. What can I expect from the natural course of this problem?
4. Is there treatment available to modify the course?
5. How long before I should see the effects of the medication?
6. Are there any side effects of the medications?
7. Under what circumstances should I notify the doctor?
8. Are there any age or gender related test I should have?
The post session is just as important as the session with the doctor. You both came up with a written plan.
Make a list of all prescriptions received
Get a copy of your session summary
Review your notes taken during session
Put all follow-up appointments on your calendar with alerts
List all of your tests you did get results for
Review all patient information given to you for accuracy
Get a copy of test results
Sign up for online patient access
Your preparation may even save your life
Telehealth does have limitations. These limitations can include:
You can’t do lab tests
You can’t do scans
Your doctor can’t touch you
Your insurance company may not cover telehealth
Weak internet and dropped calls
You may have to do more coordination of your care
I just had a telehealth session that went great. I still don’t think I can wrap my head around my doctor doing an operation virtually yet. Can you imagine your doctor sending you a machine to your home to give you a colonoscopy?
Remember not all of your medical needs can be met with a televisit.