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A Matter of Health: Planning and preparing for a telehealth visit

There are limitations, but telemedicine can be a good option for evaluating certain everyday illnesses.

More and more people have been turning to telemedicine since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March. It's a convenient way for patients to connect with medical professionals by phone or video conference for simple, non-emergency health conditions like colds, sinus infections, or skin conditions.

Based on statistics collected so far, Forrester Research reports televisits are on pace to top 1 billion by the end of the year.

"Nothing beats the convenience of televisits," said Dr. Julia Joseph-Di Caprio, Chief Medical Officer for UCare. "As long as you have the enabling technology, these visits can happen wherever you are. They save time, travel and access issues. They bring the doctor to you and can be scheduled after hours. Most important, they allow for physical distancing during the pandemic."

There are limitations to telehealth visits, which can't be used for physical exams or hands-on care, but it can be a good option for evaluating other everyday illnesses, like:

  • Flu
  • Pink eye
  • Bladder infections
  • Yeast infections
  • Ear & sinus infections
  • Acid reflux
  • Allergies
  • Headaches 
  • Certain skin conditions
  • Depression
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Substance use issues
  • Diabetes 
  • Blood pressure checks (when patients have in-home equipment)
  • Physical, occupational and speech therapies
  • Medication management
  • Care management services

In-person visits should continue where hands-on exams are needed:

  • Emergency care
  • Tests (including Covid-19 and antibody tests)
  • Immunizations
  • Cancer screenings (mammograms and colonoscopies)
  • Labs
  • X-rays and MRIs
  • Infusions
  • Procedures and surgeries
  • Instances where patients need additional privacy or don’t have required technology (wifi, camera, etc.)
  • Chiropractor care
  • Dental care

"Video calls allow the practitioner to see and perceive more information about symptoms, but phone calls are less technologically demanding for patients," Dr. Joseph-Di Caprio said. "Video calls may be more comforting for patients to see their doctor or medical professional in person. Phone calls may be preferable for simple questions requiring quick answers."

Dr. Joseph-Di Caprio recommends taking these steps to prepare for a successful telehealth appointment:

  1. Arrange a private, quiet place to have your televisit; ask household members to respect your privacy and not to interrupt.
  2. Prepare for technical requirements of the meeting software. If you can, test the software before your scheduled visit. If you’re having a video visit, ensure your camera works and lighting is adequate. Test your computer’s audio capability.
  3. Have your medical history, immunizations, pharmacy, doctor’s information, insurance information, allergies and list of medications available.
  4. Jot down questions to ask.
  5.  During the televisit, write down your treatment plan.
  6. During the visit, discuss follow-up care and clarify that you understand next steps with your provider.
Credit: KARE

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