Doing a telemedicine visit for the very first time can be a little intimidating for some because it is so far from what we experience during a typical in-office visit. However, if you think about how regularly we use technology in our day-to-day lives, accessing healthcare should not be that different.
Telemedicine is rapidly becoming the preferred method of delivering care in 2020, especially in the wake of the current global coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to its effectiveness in limiting exposure to the virus, cost savings, and convenience of in-home care, telemedicine is growing more popular than ever.
In this article, we outline five ways to get the most out of your telemedicine visit. This is especially important if you are using telemedicine for the very first time, but even if you have used telemedicine before, these tips will help you to avoid common mistakes that patients sometimes make.
1. Understand the appropriate uses of telemedicine.
Telemedicine should NOT be used for medical emergencies. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room.
Common health issues that can be addressed with telemedicine are sinus problems, respiratory infections, allergies, sore throat, flu symptoms, rashes, pink eye, and many other mild illnesses. If you are worried you may have COVID-19 and would like to discuss your symptoms with a provider, then telemedicine can be a safe way to do so from your home without exposing yourself to other people in a clinic or emergency room.
2. Make sure your equipment works.
We have all been in one of those video conference calls where either the signal is bad or somebody’s equipment is not working. You end up in a perpetual loop asking each other, “can you hear me?” This wastes time, and can be frustrating for both the patient and the provider during a telemedicine visit. Many telemed companies are experiencing increased wait times for patients to even see a provider right now, so it’s even more important to use your time wisely.
Before your visit begins, test all the equipment you’ll be using. Make sure your microphone is picking up your speech, and that you can hear what the other party is saying. Check that your webcam is recording properly. Most importantly, check that your internet connection is functioning and stable.
3. Choose a well-lit, quiet area for your visit.
The power of current technology is incredible: a telemedicine provider can do an exceptional physical exam over video, using keen observation and asking the patient to perform certain maneuvers. However, this is only possible if your provider can see you. Good lighting and a stable camera set up is essential for your telemedicine visit.
Let’s say a patient has a skin complaint, for example. The provider has to have a well-lit, clear view of the skin to examine the color, type of rash or lesion, or to check for signs of a serious condition.
It is also important that you choose a quiet room with minimal distractions. As you can imagine, it can be quite difficult to properly evaluate a patient over a video call if children or pets are making too much noise or interrupting the call. Pick a room with a door that can be closed, or schedule your telemedicine visit when children will be napping or otherwise preoccupied.
4. Keep track of your illness or condition.
Your provider relies on accurate information from you to make a proper assessment of your condition. That information is even more crucial when you’re not meeting your provider in person. If you’re not used to using telemedicine at first, you may be so focused on the technology that you may overlook some important details that your provider needs.
We recommend keeping observations of your illness or condition in a journal or using a notes app in your phone. Write down the date, symptoms you’re experiencing, possible triggers, and so on. Using our previous example of a patient with a skin complaint, this person may write down that they woke with a rash, or experienced it after eating certain foods or using certain beauty products. All of these observations can help your provider diagnose the problem.
If you have any medical equipment like a thermometer, glucose monitor, or blood pressure cuff at home, measure your vitals if you can and record them. You can even use Fitbits or an Apple Watch to get that information.
5. Have any questions or notes related to your condition ready.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine platforms are experiencing a surge of patients and wait times are increasing. The best way to get the most out of your visit is to be prepared.
Write down any questions or concerns so that you don’t forget to ask them. Keep your journal of observations nearby so you can share them with your provider. Ultimately, the telemedicine provider’s goal is to make sure that their patient understands their diagnosis and treatment plan, and that all their questions are answered.
Telemedicine visits can take some getting used to, and we hope our tips eased your fears and answered any questions you had. If you have further questions about what to expect from a telemedicine visit, contact The Kingsley Clinic. We’re here to help!