Telemedicine: What You Need to Get Started

This post was originally published by Health Content Collective here.

Given the global pandemic, many healthcare providers are shifting gears to give patients the option to receive care virtually, without an in-person visit. The idea of telemedicine may seem a bit daunting so here’s what you need to know to help you have a smooth, effective experience.

What to Expect:

  • The Patient Portal: If you haven’t set this up in the past, now is a great time to get familiar with this technology. You can set up or manage your appointments, communicate with your doctor, view test results and access additional resources. It’s also where you’ll find the technology for virtual visits, if available from your provider. If you do not have login information, contact your provider’s office.

  • Apps: In some cases, the patient portal will have an app that serves the same purpose. For telemedicine visits, if available, this may be an easier-to-use option as it removes the nuances of compatibility with various browsers.

  • Instructions: Depending on your doctor’s office or institution, you will receive instructions for joining the virtual appointment. This may be in the form of an email message from the patient portal, a text message (if you’ve opted in), a phone call from the clinic, or all of the above.

  • Patience: As with any video chat technology, there is inevitably an issue early on either with sound, video or all of the above. Be patient with your provider and yourself as you try to connect. Conversation may not flow as easily as it does with your provider in person, but you will find a comfortable groove after the initial few minutes.

  • Consent: You will be asked to electronically sign and consent for the virtual appointment. You may receive a message from your doctor via the patient portal or you will be guided through the process as you log in for your visit.

Key Steps for Success:

  • Make sure you have access to the patient portal.
  • Login in advance to “test your system” – most technology offers this option when you are on the virtual appointment screen.

  • Download and login to the app if available.
  • When scheduling, ask for a phone number to call if you have any issues when connecting.

Will This Change the Practice of Medicine?

As we begin to look beyond the pandemic, it seems that virtual medicine may become a mainstay. Certainly, if your visit doesn’t require a physical exam, this option is enormously more convenient for seeing a doctor and being able to communicate how you’re feeling.  But if you need a test or bloodwork, this becomes a less reasonable option

What are we missing by visiting a doctor in-person? And, conversely, what are we gaining by going virtual? Like every new technology, there are pros and cons. Only time will tell.

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