Facetime, Skype, What’s App…these are all ways we communicate electronically with our family and friends. We love the convenience of seeing loved ones face-to-face from the comfort of our own home. We love the access of being able to see loved ones that may live in another country. So why would we not enjoy interacting with other people in our lives this way, such as our physicians?
Telemedicine not only offers convenience and access for your appointments with your allergist or immunologist, but during the pandemic caused by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), it is a necessity.
What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine uses video or telephone communication to connect patients with a medical professional for exchange of information electronically. As a patient, you can see your provider in this manner instead of an in-person visit. During a telemedicine visit, the physician can evaluate, diagnose and treat the patient, including dispensing prescriptions, lab orders or other orders deemed necessary in the patient’s care. This can all occur over an electronic device such as a smartphone, computer or tablet.
The telemedicine visit occurs with the same level of quality and care as it would in person.
What Conditions Can Be Seen by Telemedicine?
There are some conditions well suited to be seen by telemedicine. Some of these include sinusitis, bronchitis, hay fever allergies, rashes, eye allergies and others. These conditions are common ones that an allergist may evaluate and treat, so telemedicine is an excellent option to see an allergist for a visit.
It is important to keep in mind that outpatient telemedicine visits are not used for emergency related health concerns such as strokes or heart attacks.
1. Choose your tech.
It is helpful to decide ahead of time what device you may use for your telemedicine visit. It can be a computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet. It may also matter if it is Apple, Google, Windows, or Android based. Having a reliable internet connection is also important.
2. Set-up prior to your appointment.
Make sure you ask your physician’s office about any technology set up that may need to occur ahead of your telemedicine visit. This may include downloading an app or creating a new account. You should also ask for a contact number in case there is a problem during your telemedicine visit. Doing this will reduce the stress of managing new technology during the actual telemedicine visit.
3. Choose a quiet, private place.
Find a place for your appointment that is quiet so you can hear your physician, and they in turn can hear you. This will reduce distractions and interruptions, making your appointment more productive.
4. Prepare your medical history.
Just as in an in-person visit, having accurate medical history available is helpful for your physician during their evaluation. This would include any personal or family history, environmental history, lifestyle and job history. Having this information available ahead of time will make for an efficient telemedicine visit and give your physician important information to give you the best care possible. Sometimes your provider’s office may contact you in advance of the visit to obtain some of this basic information.
5. Prepare paperwork ahead of time.
You may receive paperwork containing information to complete ahead of your telemedicine visit. This may include a list of medications you take, your primary physician contact, pharmacy contact, insurance information, consent for telemedicine or payment information.
6. Obtain vital signs.
If you are able to, it is helpful to obtain vital signs prior to your appointment. If you have an electronic blood pressure cuff, you can obtain blood pressure and heart rate. You can take your weight and temperature as well at home and report during your telemedicine visit. You can also take pictures of any rashes or conjunctivitis you have questions about. This information will be helpful as your doctor evaluates you during your telemedicine visit.
7. Be prepared for co-pays.
It is important to be aware that most insurance companies consider a telemedicine visit comparable to an in-person visit and are therefore possibly subject to the same co-pays and payments.
8. Write down questions ahead of time.
The stress of a new type of visit can be a distraction when trying to remember all the things you may want to ask your physician. Writing down important questions you have for your physician ahead of time will help you remember them during your visit.
9. Review your treatment plan.
You should review your treatment plan with your physician during your telemedicine visit so you both understand next steps. It is also helpful to write it down so you do not forget the plan. Ask any questions about the plan during this time with your doctor.
10. Set up follow-up.
At the end of your telemedicine visit, set up a follow-up visit as necessary.
Following these 10 tips will help you master your telemedicine visit.
This article has been reviewed by Andrew Moore, MD, FAAAAI