As the pandemic raged through the world throughout the course of 2020, it significantly impacted how we interact with each other and seek professional care. Telemedicine—the practice of delivering medical care through technology—really took off as people were forced to stay inside to remain safe and curb the spread of the virus. Recently, telemedicine has become much more accessible and widespread than ever before. Often only requiring a quiet space, a decent internet connection, and software with which to interact with the doctor, telemedicine is a convenient and simple means of seeking non-emergency medical care from the safety/comfort of your home. Whether it’s your first time using such a service or you’re a seasoned veteran of virtual medicine, here is a short guide to preparing for a telemedicine visit. Read on.
Know What They Treat and What They Don’t
While online doctors can capably treat a large variety of conditions, there are some things they can’t—or shouldn’t—be expected to treat. Research and communication are key here. When in doubt, ask! Keep in mind that telemedicine excels at consultations, getting prescriptions, and managing chronic conditions. They can also provide a degree of urgent care for some conditions. Most of the time, an online doctor can readily handle treatment, diagnosis, and consultation for the following conditions:
- Diabetes (Type I and Type II)
- Arthritis pain
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Cold sores
- Sinus issues
- Urinary tract infections
- Erectile dysfunction
- Bladder infections
- Cold and flu symptoms
There are, of course, many other conditions that can be treated and it’s always wise to check with the telemedicine organization for a comprehensive list of what they can and can’t treat. There are so many conditions that can be treated remotely, it may seem like you can use it for everything. But that simply isn’t the case at the moment. Outside of telemedicine, it might be better to see the doctor physically if you’re experiencing abdominal issues, need a blood test, or require x-rays. When an extensive physical examination is required, that’s something that is best performed in person. An online doctor is not yet equipped to handle emergencies, although that is slowly changing as emergency departments adopt new technology. For now, in the case of a life-threatening emergency, be sure to call 911 or head straight to the emergency room. In the event of an emergency, it’s prudent to act quickly and emergency services are equipped to help you under those circumstances.
Select A Doctor and Book An Appointment
Finding a doctor online is actually quite easy. There are many different services you’ve probably heard of, like TelaDoc and Doctor on Demand. But one of the best and most versatile telemedicine organizations is Everydaydoctor.com. A division of the renowned telehealth organization PlushCare, the site has everything you need to select a doctor, find out if they take your insurance, and book an appointment—all with a user-friendly and comprehensive search interface. Simply head to their website, click “see a doctor now,” and it’ll ask you a few simple questions like what state you reside in and what insurance you use. Due to the way licensing works, you can only see a doctor located within your state. Once you find a doctor you like, you simply select to book them and can be in a virtual appointment at some point during the day.
Be Prepared With Your Medical Info
When seeing your virtual doctor, always come prepared. It’s best to have a list of symptoms available so you can share as much information as possible with them. Also, be sure to tell them about any pre-existing conditions you have and provide as much information as possible.
Make sure you disclose any allergies to medication you may have (like penicillin), so the doctor avoids prescribing anything that might wreak havoc with your allergies. Communication is the key to success in any virtual doctor’s appointment. Just because you’re interacting over the phone or via the conferencing app doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell your doctor important things. Avoid omitting any information and ensure both you and your doctor are on the same page. Never gamble when it comes to your health. After the appointment, the doctor may prescribe medicine that you can pick up at a local pharmacy, so make sure they have your most recent, up-to-date information before ending the appointment.
Keep Medical Devices Handy During the Call
As part of your online doctor’s visit, it may be useful to keep various medical devices you already own on hand. This could be as simple as having a thermometer or a blood pressure cuff on hand. A pulse oximeter and functioning scale are also useful to have on hand. For conducting the call, you’ll want to ensure your internet connection is solid, you’re in a quiet, well-lit area, and both your speakers and microphone are working properly On the doctor’s side of the meeting, they’ll be using HIPPA-compliant software, high-quality cameras, robust microphones, a digital otoscope, and other tools to help them take care of your needs. Their tools are still relatively new, but as telemedicine evolves, they’ll become more commonplace. When that happens, the future of telemedicine will be more technologically viable and even more commonplace than it is becoming today.
Ask Important Questions
Speaking with your doctor about your concerns is only part of the experience telemedicine has to offer. It’s never a bad idea to ask as many follow-up questions as you need or to even have an authorized person in the room with you to help keep the information straight. Telemedicine is governed by HIPPA standards, so anything you ask the doctor is confidential between the two of you. Don’t be afraid to ask the doctor about managing chronic conditions, prescriptions, and other critical health concerns as you would in a physical doctor’s office. Having an important discussion with your doctor is what telemedicine is all about. Ensuring you ask important questions and communicate effectively will go a long way to making your telemedicine visit easy, convenient, and worthwhile.