October 27th, 2021 | Updated on June 27th, 2022
Virtual medicine has gotten really popular lately, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals and urgent cares in many areas are still overwhelmed with COVID patients, and many doctors are still nixing elective procedures and cutting back their private practice hours in order to cope.
But even with full hospitals and limited time, doctors still need to see patients with non-COVID health concerns, and telemedicine can make that happen.
If you’ve never attended a virtual doctor visit before, you might be apprehensive. Can your doctor really provide the same level of care over a webcam?
While it’s true that your doctor can’t reach through the screen to palpate your abdomen or take your pulse, virtual visits are perfectly sufficient for the treatment of many minor health complaints and even for the management of many chronic conditions. Here’s what you need to know to make the most out of your virtual visit.
Contact Your Insurance Provider
Before you schedule your first virtual visit, you should verify that your insurance covers telehealth services. (If you don’t have insurance, telemedicine platforms like Plushcare offer lower out-of-pocket costs for uninsured patients.)
Most health insurance providers these days do cover virtual medical visits, and may even do so with a lower copay than normal, or with no copay at all.
Make Your Appointment
If you’re using a platform like Plushcare that offers 24/7 access to telehealth services, you can simply make an account and schedule your visit through the platform.
If you want to see your regular doctor online, you should call his or her office and ask if telehealth appointments are available and make your appointment over the phone.
Get Your Tech Ready
If you’re using a dedicated telehealth services platform for your online doctor visit, you’ll use a video conferencing tool baked into that program to connect with a doctor. But if you want to see your regular doctor, you might need to use a dedicated patient portal app to connect.
Some doctors have been using secure platforms like Teledoc or Doxy.me for their additional layer of security. Other doctors prefer apps they and their patients are already familiar with, like Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime.
Make sure you know which app or platform your doctor wants to use, and that you have it downloaded and ready to go before your appointment.
Right before your appointment, check that your tech is working and that your wifi connection is strong enough to support video streaming.
Technical issues happen, though, and they can’t always be foreseen, so have a backup method of communication in case your connection is laggy or drops altogether.
A good, old-fashioned phone call can help you finish your appointment successfully when technical issues occur.
If you’re seeking telehealth services to manage a chronic condition, your doctor might want you to use your own equipment to collect data on your pulse, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, or so forth. Make sure you have this equipment ready for your appointment and check it before each session to make sure it’s working properly.
Write Down Your Symptoms
Do the same things to prepare for your virtual visit that you would do for an in-person visit. Write down your symptoms, when they started, and how they’ve progressed, as well as any over-the-counter treatments or home remedies you’ve already tried. Be prepared to give the doctor your medical history if you’ll be seeing someone new.
Find A Quiet, Well-Lighted Place To Teleconference
You shouldn’t plan on doing your virtual doctor visit from the Starbucks down the street. You need quiet, so you and the doctor can hear each other, and privacy, unless you want the whole neighborhood to hear about your weird new growth.
You also need to make sure there’s plenty of light so your doctor can see you, but don’t sit directly in front of a light source — that will make it too hard for the doctor to see your face or anything else you need to show him.
Have the light coming in from the side or from the other side of your device.
During your doctor visit, place your device on a stand or prop it up somewhere so that your doctor can see your face clearly and your hands are free.
This is especially important if you’re getting treatment for something you need to show the doctor, like a rash.
Going to the doctor online for the first time can be intimidating, but you can get quality care for many conditions without the need to physically visit a doctor’s office. Once you’ve completed your first virtual exam, you’ll want to do every doctor’s visit online.