Skip to Content

Taking Control of Your Telehealth


During the COVID-19 pandemic, here’s how to be ready for a great telehealth appointment.

Though few could have predicted why it happened, the rise of the virtual doctor's office visit has exploded in 2020, in large part due to COVID-19. But, virtual medicine, or telehealth, made waves before this pandemic and is one "new normal" that would be great to keep around well beyond our current circumstances. It's crucial to note that a virtual doctor's office visit isn't for everyone or every medical condition. As always, if you believe your health concern is an emergency, the ER is the best place for you. But for those individuals seeking to schedule routine office visits or a visit that could be done virtually, the telehealth appointment offers some fantastic perks. In this article are some tips to make seeing your doctor online the best visit it can be.

When preparing for a telehealth visit, the first order of business is to ensure that the device you're using to connect from is fully charged and in proper working order. Also, be sure the location where your visit will take place has a secure and stable Internet connection. There's nothing more frustrating for patients and providers than a spotty Wi-Fi signal or other electronic disturbance. Test out your connection by video-chatting on another platform with someone you know. Ask them to provide feedback on the connectivity. Was it strong? Were there lags in the video or audio feed? Believe it or not, finding the right "signal spot" for your visit is probably the most significant factor in ensuring you have a great appointment. Doing the work upfront to find a suitable location before your appointment is a must.

If you are connecting to the health provider via an app, make sure you've downloaded it beforehand and logged in or set up the platform pre-visit. Suppose the opportunity is available to navigate the app. Doing so before your appointment can give you confidence in knowing what will be expected of you when you log in for your appointment. Familiarizing yourself with the telehealth platform your doctor will use can save you time and will help ensure that you can get to your virtual visit promptly.

Once you've made sure your Internet connection is stable, your device is ready, and you've downloaded the app or platform that you will use for the virtual visit, then comes a focus on your physical surroundings. You'll want to set up the area where your appointment will take place and ensure it has good lighting and minimal background noise. Having space available to stand and move if requested by your physician is a good idea. You might even want to ask at the time of scheduling whether your physician has any other requests. Some might recommend having your blood pressure cuff available and at your side. Other’s might recommend pen and paper for notetaking. A good rule of thumb to follow is this: if what is going on around you in the room is not something you would want going on around you in a physical doctor's office space, then eliminate the distraction before your virtual appointment. Some ways to minimize distractions include turning off other electronics beforehand and asking other members of your household or the space you're in for the visit to avoid making unnecessary noise during your consultation.

When you've eliminated or minimized distractions in your appointment environment, you can prepare for the visit itself. As would be recommended to do with an in-person visit, developing a priority list of issues or questions to discuss and refer to during your telehealth visit is a wise idea. If possible, consider having someone available nearby during your appointment who can assist if necessary, holding the device, answering questions, or retrieving information. Have all the medications you are currently taking available for identification, discussion, and review and begin the appointment with confirmation of the approximate time available for the visit. Doing so will help you maximize the time you have.

Your first telehealth visit with a provider may not go perfectly, and that's okay. You will likely learn some lessons along the way that you can take into your next virtual visit. We will find ourselves on the better side of this pandemic, but the telehealth medical visits that have exploded as a result are likely here to stay. That can be an excellent thing for patients – especially those who experienced previous physical, mental, or geographical constraints with an in-person visit. So here's to your telehealth!