The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most healthcare facilities to change how they deliver their services. Telehealth (also called telemedicine) is when you receive healthcare via phone, e-mail, video, and other technologies.
Telehealth visits are a great option for individuals who live far away from their healthcare provider, can’t travel to their healthcare provider or simply do not have the transportation to get to a physical appointment.
This trend has moved mainstream and has become quite popular, especially among specialists like rheumatologists. As you may know, there is a shortage of rheumatologists, especially in rural cities and remote locations. This technology allows them to provide their services to many more people in need who may not live in their community.
It might be hard to see yourself in a virtual medical appointment if you’ve never had one. If technology is not your passion, it may seem overwhelming. But a little preparation can go a long way!
Here are some tips to better prepare you for your telehealth visit:
First, call your insurance provider. Verify your insurance coverage and how much your copay or coinsurance is. Have your payment card available at the beginning of the appointment to avoid any delays.
Check your email for instructions. It is likely that the office sent you detailed instructions via email, text, or other communication method. Usually there is a simple link, blue text that is underlined, that you click and it brings you right into the private meeting room. If you’re having trouble, go back to this email.
When scheduling, ask about assistive technology available. Having assistance, with a magnified screen reader, closed captioning, or translation, can help you to communicate more effectively and confidently. If you need translation services, be sure to ask ahead of time. If you have a trusted friend or family member on the call translating for you, be sure to introduce them. Your rheumatologist will want to leave extra time for this.
Have photos of your ID and insurance cards available for upload. Keep them in their own album folder or favorites for easy recall.
Make sure the device you will be taking the call from is fully charged and ready. Check your internet connection to make sure it is strong enough for the call. Close all of the other programs on your device. This will help your smartphone, tablet, or computer run smoother during your appointment.
Be available about 15 minutes before and after your scheduled time.
Dress comfortably and be prepared for your whole body to be in camera. Your rheumatologist may ask to see covered parts of your skin, ankles or feet. They may also want to watch you do specific standing movements to evaluate range of motion in some joints. You do not need to glam-up for a runway photo shoot, but be sure to always wear pants!
Speak clearly. Speak directly into your microphone.
Being in an office is a lot different than a telehealth appointment. Go somewhere private whenever possible. Wear headphones if you’re in public. Also try to go somewhere with no background noise. Musical instruments, children playing, and construction noises can interrupt your visit and be very distracting.
Lighting is very important when showing skin changes, joint swelling, and redness. Try to go somewhere with a lot of natural light, whenever possible. For about $40 you can have a stand with a ring light that holds your smartphone while you talk. If you don’t have this, you can use the flashlight for extra lighting.
Make sure to have a list of your current medications. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, and supplements. It may be helpful to have the bottles, or photos of the bottles, in front of you.
You also need to have your pharmacy information ready, too. This includes the name, address, and phone number. This information is always on the bottles. It’s also helpful to have cross streets and the store number, if available. This information is usually on the recording or on the pharmacy’s website.
It’s also helpful to have your primary care provider’s (PCP) information handy as well. This includes the group name, the provider’s full name, address, phone number, and fax number if available.
Have a document with your detailed medical history available. This should include all things you’re being treated for as well as past medical problems. This should also include all surgeries you have had.
Make a list of things you want to discuss prior to your appointment. The more prepared you are, the more efficient the visit will be.
Take notes during your call. Write down important points your rheumatologist brings up. Jot down your treatment plan, necessary follow-up appointments, and additional instructions you might need. If you can’t remember something, ask.
Remember: If you’re going to record the visit, you need permission first.
Telehealth is an alternative method to receive the rheumatology care that you need. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the availability of this service has expanded. Telehealth is here to stay! I hope these tips were helpful in preparing for your next telehealth visit with your rheumatologist.