Technology is a pretty amazing thing. Over the years, it has allowed us to make telephone calls from a device we can fit in our pockets, find the answer to almost any question we might ask, and connect with friends and strangers across the globe. It has also helped all of us feel less isolated and alone during a global pandemic.
In addition to the social benefits of technology, the medical field has been able to harness it to help treat patients safely and easily during the past few months. Telehealth is emerging as a great alternative for nonemergency appointments—sort of like a doctor making a house call without actually coming to your house.
Telehealth Is on the Rise
Prior to the pandemic, research showed that although telemedicine was accessible to patients, only 13% of them took advantage of the services. This spring, that number more than tripled, due in part to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The legislation loosened Medicare restrictions on telehealth and made it easier for both doctors and patients to use the service unencumbered. It has proven to be especially useful for those with compromised immune systems, lack of transportation, and mobility issues.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has reported a huge uptick in telehealth medicine, citing an increase from 13,000 visits per week before the pandemic, to 1.7 million per week by the end of April. In addition to helping people remain safe and healthy during a pandemic, telehealth allows for a more relaxed experience, one that does not require a long wait to see a doctor nor you to leave the comfort of your own home.
Preparing for a Telehealth Appointment
If you have not yet seen a doctor virtually, odds are likely that you will in the future. Since the experience is a bit different than what you may be used to from in-person visits, here’s what you should do in order to prepare for your appointment:
1. Be Clear About Your Why. Since doctors have a little bit less to work with when appointments become virtual, be clear about the reason behind your “visit.” And since a telehealth appointment typically only lasts for 10-15 minutes, get straight to the point once you have the doctor’s attention to make the most of your time.
2. Take Your Tech for a Test Run. If you haven’t used the technology that supports your virtual appointment, be sure to test it out before the day of your appointment. There will most likely be a secure website for you to log in to, or a platform for you to download to your computer. Keep your username and password handy so when your appointment time arrives, you don’t hit any snags when trying to log in.
3. Set Up in a Quiet Place. To ensure that communication between you and your physician is clear and direct, set up your computer in a quiet, well-lit area of your home. Choose a spot that is free of distractions and private should you want to discuss sensitive topics with your physician.
4. Write Down Notes in Advance. Just as you would for in-person appointments, jot down some notes or questions for the doctor ahead of time so you don’t forget when you finally see the doctor. If you are prescribed more than one medication, be sure to make a list so you can review it with your physician during your appointment.
5. Make Sure Your Clothes Are Not a Hindrance. Although it might seem like a telehealth appointment wouldn’t allow for physical examinations, doctors are adept at making diagnoses or calling for additional tests based on what they can see on camera during your appointment. Be prepared to strip down should you want to show your doctor something on your body, and be sure to wear clothes that are easy to remove in that instance.
The Future of Telehealth
While telehealth is working right now, the CARES Act only approved the rollback of restrictions through the end of the pandemic. Due to its success, however, both institutions and legislators are pushing for an expansion of telehealth services once there is a return to normalcy. So, it looks like telehealth might be here to stay after all.