By: Karen Yontz Center Staff
While the use of telehealth is increasing during this time of social distancing, it’s been on the rise for the past few years. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of telehealth visits increased by an eye-popping 1393%. The largest group using telemedicine during that time was adults aged 31-40 and telehealth visits were most likely done for convenience. But COVID-19 has changed that. Due to the many fluctuations we are experiencing in health care and the world, many healthcare professionals are turning to telemedicine to continue to provide care to patients while they remain safely at home.
If you are new to telemedicine, here are a few things to consider before your appointment:
- Technology: Familiarize yourself with any equipment or technology needed to connect to your provider. Some providers use a patient portal, others use an app such as Zoom or Facetime to connect. Download the software in advance and be ready at the scheduled time. Limit other internet use during the visit so that your internet connection is as strong and fast as possible.
- Location: Choose an area of your home that is private, has good lighting, and is quiet. All of this will be helpful for best communication between you and your provider. You may want to consider using headphones or ear buds to enhance sound transmission and privacy.
- Visit Preparation: As with any health care visit, it is important to consider what you want to discuss with your provider in advance. Jot down notes about your symptoms, current concerns, medications, and any other areas you want to discuss so you don’t forget them. Have information about your current preferred pharmacy address and phone number available in case medications need to be ordered. During this time of social distancing, this may be different than what is in your record.
- Vital signs: Any vital statistics that you can provide will help your provider. This may be a good time to consider purchases such as a blood pressure cuff, thermometer, scale and possibly even a pulse oximeter for oxygen readings. These are usually available at pharmacies, online and retail stores such as Target and Walmart. Be aware that coronavirus has increased demand for certain home health monitoring devices and they might not be immediately available. The American Medical Association has a list of blood pressure cuffs that are validated for accuracy and this should be noted on the packaging. All of the validated cuffs are for the arm as wrist cuffs are not recommended for accuracy.
- Notes: Plan to have pen and paper or electronic means to take notes about your diagnosis and/or treatment plan during your appointment. This may be helpful in case you have questions about what was planned or next steps.
- Be patient: Technology doesn’t always work as we hope it will so be prepared for a few glitches. If they don’t happen, even better! But make sure to ask early in the visit what you should do if the visit gets disconnected either on your end, or on that of your provider.
There is no reason to be intimidated by telehealth visits. The more prepared you are, the smoother your experience is likely to be.