Health care with a simple tap of your phone or the opening of a laptop. It sounds futuristic, but it’s now the reality for many health care providers and patients. Telehealth, with its incredible ease of access, can put you in touch with some of the top physicians in the world. But while distance is no longer an issue, how can you get the most out of your telehealth appointment?
Telehealth, often referred to as “telemedicine,” refers to health care provided outside of an in-person doctor’s visit. Primarily online via internet access on a computer, tablet or smartphone, telehealth has existed for years, but the pandemic’s need for social distancing accelerated widespread use and acceptance of telehealth. It’s now proven to be especially effective for mental health issues, non-emergency primary care (such as minor injuries, rashes, colds and flu), primary care, second opinion and follow-up visits, and ongoing care for chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.
While convenience reigns supreme for these visits, allowing easier access for patients with mobility or transportation issues, many seniors are not yet as comfortable talking to a physician through a screen rather than face-to-face in a doctor’s office or hospital. Therefore, it’s very important for all individuals to properly prepare for the telehealth appointment. Before your loved one’s appointment, make sure to do the following:
Get comfortable with the technology
Decide how you will be accessing your telehealth appointment. Whether joining via phone, tablet or laptop computer, make sure your video and audio is working and you have an internet connection that’s strong enough to handle a video chat.
Choose a good spot
You may want to make sure your loved one is in a well-lit area and the device’s camera is focused on their face, preferably in a fixed location where they don’t need to hold it the whole time. Find a well-lit, quiet, comfortable place for the appointment. If privacy is a concern, consider a place where they feel comfortable relaying private information.
Close other apps or programs
It’s best to avoid distractions and devote all the Internet bandwidth to the telehealth appointment. Close programs or apps not being used during the appointment.
Help your loved one make a list of questions and concerns before the appointment. Just like at a typical doctor’s appointment, it’s easy to forget to include key information when you’re face-to-face (or face-to-screen) with a physician. Your senior should also be ready to provide family medical history, list of current medications, pharmacy information (including name, address, phone and fax numbers), insurance card, and credit card information if necessary.
Your loved one’s first telehealth appointment may be a little nerve-racking as they attempt to navigate the technology. Have a pad and paper ready to take notes so they don’t forget any important information during the call.
Telehealth may not be new, but many people are just now trying it for the first time—including many seniors who are still getting used to the idea and the technology. It’s extremely valuable for you as a caregiver to attend the telehealth appointment with your loved one if possible to ensure all devices are working properly and to act as a health care advocate, encouraging them to ask for more information or note follow-up actions or requirements.