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How to prepare for your first virtual appointment

While there certainly has been a lot of buzz around it, telemedicine isn’t a new concept. Health care providers have been using electronic tools to connect patients to their providers virtually for decades. Never before, however, has its popularity taken off the way it has during the COVID-19 pandemic. Changing the way health care is delivered during the pandemic has been critical to keep patients safe, reduce staff exposure to ill patients, preserve precious personal protective equipment (PPE) and minimize the spread of the virus. At speeds never seen before, healthcare systems have had to adapt to new ways of providing care for their patients while minimizing the risk of spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine uses electronic information and telecommunication technologies to provide patients virtual care when they aren’t in the same physical location as their doctor. All that is needed is a phone, tablet or computer with internet access and you may:

• Talk to your doctor live over the phone or through video.

• Send and receive messages from your doctor through text, chat, email and/or secure messaging and file exchange.

Telemedicine is a smart, safe choice for seeking care, especially during the pandemic. As infection rates across the state remain high, many individuals are still feeling concerned about going out, and for good reason. While we are staying home, that doesn’t mean that medical care can or should stop. Telemedicine continues to be a great solution during this time to help ease patient’s minds and protect themselves and others from the virus, while also making the connection with a nurse, doctor, therapist or other medical professionals possible.

As telemedicine continues to prove a useful tool during this pandemic, many services and providers have adapted and are now offering virtual visits, including providing:

• Routine chronic and preventative health care

• Urgent medical care

• Mental health services

• Physical, speech and occupational therapy

How to Prepare for a Virtual Visit

Preparing for a virtual visit doesn’t need to be intimidating. To start, review your health insurance plan coverage to confirm your telemedicine benefits coverage and review your plan details.

Once you are ready for a telemedicine appointment there are three easy ways to seek support, including:

• Calling your primary care physician: Connect with your doctor or mental health professional to see if they have a virtual health option. Since they already know your medical history, they are a great first step.

• Finding virtual care providers in your state: If your doctor isn’t offering telemedicine services or if you are looking for more options you can contact your insurance carrier.

Tips for Success

Once you’ve scheduled your appointment, here are a few pointers to keep in mind before and during your appointment to help you make the most of your virtual care experience.

• Check your equipment: Since most telemedicine visits incorporate a video component, make sure your audio and video functionality work on your phone, tablet or computer. Make sure your device is charged or connected to a power source and that you check for a strong internet connection.

• Find a quiet, private spot: Although many of us are home with our loved ones, if possible, find a quiet, comfortable and private place for you to connect with your provider. If you can’t physically move to a separate area, consider using headphones or earbuds to protect the privacy of the conversation.

• Patience is key: The telemedicine experience is new to not only a lot of patients but many providers too. Plan for there to be a few bumps along the way, like a dropped connection or a frozen video screen. Keeping an open mind and remembering to be patient can be helpful for your first experience.

Remember that just because we are in a pandemic doesn’t mean that care should stop. Always speak with your doctor if you aren’t feeling well to find the best course of action for you.

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