Telehealth, or telemedicine, is an appointment with a medical provider by phone or video call. While it has been around for a number of years, the practice has become much more popular lately as we faced the coronavirus pandemic. In order to help slow the spread of the virus, many physicians relied on technology to continue to offer access to health care without a physical visit to the doctor’s office.

The uses for telehealth

Telehealth offers a convenient way to connect with a health care provider from the comfort of your own home or office. Appointments are often available sooner than waiting to be seen in an office. It is also a lower cost option than urgent care or emergency services.

This real-time access to a provider using a smartphone or computer is ideal for:

Prepare for your telehealth visit

Once you have scheduled a telehealth appointment with your provider, you will typically receive an email from the office with instructions for accessing your telehealth appointment. It will also include any documents such as a “Consent to Treat” form that may need to be signed before your visit. Be sure to read them and accept or agree to the documents before your visit. For instance, before a telehealth appointment at Lifespan, we require that you read and accept Lifespan’s Notification of Privacy Practices, and Lifespan’s "Consent to Treat" policy.

You can make the most of your telehealth appointment by preparing in advance. This checklist can help.

Verify insurance coverage

Check with your health insurance plan to verify coverage for telehealth visits and any co-pay and/or deductible for which you may be responsible.

Choose your location, in a private place

Being in a doctor’s office is a very different experience than a telehealth appointment. Ensure you are able to be in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted during your visit with your provider, and where you will not be overheard by others. Having headphones or earbuds may also be helpful if you are in an area with noise or distractions.

Have your device set up and ready

Whether you're using a smartphone, computer or tablet for your telehealth appointment, it’s important to become familiar with the app or software in advance of your appointment. Be sure to download any app or create an account with the telemedicine site as directed by your provider’s office. Some offices have how-to information in your email confirmation or may have instructional videos on their website. If you are experiencing any issues call your providers’ office with questions before your appointment. And of course, be sure your device is charged or plugged in.

Get your information ready

As with any appointment, your provider will need some up-to-date information from you. Gather the following information and have it available for your call:

  • A list of your prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and supplements. Since you are at home, having your prescription bottles in front of you may be helpful as well.
  • Your pharmacy information, including name, phone number and address.
  • If your appointment is with anyone other than your primary care provider, be sure you have your primary doctor's name and contact info and any specialists you have seen since your last visit.
  • Your health insurance identification card.
  • Credit card information for any applicable copays or deductible.
  • Your medical history and information on your family’s medical history.

Jot down questions to ask before your appointment

Many of us experience some anxiety before a doctor’s appointment, and you may forget to ask important questions as a result. Writing out a list of questions you have for your provider beforehand can help. The list might include questions such as what to do if your symptoms continue or when you can expect to feel better.

Take notes during your call

While you’re talking to your provider, take notes about important points. Be sure to discuss your treatment plan, any necessary follow-up care, and further instructions you might need, then jot it down. It’s important that you understand what was discussed. If you can’t remember something or need further information, you should call your provider’s office for clarification.  

General tips

While your provider will strive to be on time for your telehealth visit, please be available 10 to 15 minutes before and after the call to make sure you can receive the call and fully participate. Be patient. If the call is delayed, it is likely that your provider is caring for another patient.

Many of Lifespan’s providers are offering telehealth as an option for your care. Check with your provider’s office for specific details. You can learn more about telehealth on our website.

Lifespan Blog Team

The Lifespan Blog Team is working to provide you with timely and pertinent information that will help keep you and your family happy and healthy.