Prepare for virtual doctor visits

Patients should have vitals, prescriptions and questions ready.
Courtesy iStock

The use of telemedicine has skyrocketed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. With its increased popularity, health care professionals and patients have been adapting to the online appointment method.

In the age of the pandemic, video conferences have become a daily occurrence for many, but the entirety of the telemedicine process may seem a bit daunting to those who are unfamiliar with online calls.

To have a successful visit, Dr. Bree Holtz, an associate professor in the department of advertising and public relations and director of the health and risk communication program at Michigan State University, said proper preparation and a patient’s ability to ask questions is key.

“In my experience, your provider is going to send you some documentation,” Holtz said. “Take the time before your appointment to read over the directions that they’ve sent, and if you’re unsure about anything, call your provider.”

Along with any pre-appointment directions prepared for you by the doctor’s office, it is helpful for both you and your provider to grab any materials you may need to reference throughout the appointment, such as prescriptions and vitals, prior to the appointment time.

“It’s so easy to be in an appointment with your provider and forget that you wanted to ask certain questions or have certain concerns, so have your notes of questions,” Holtz said. “Some doctors ask that if you have any of your vitals at home, to grab your weight, grab your blood pressure. If you are talking about prescriptions, have them with you.”

When it comes to the technological aspects of the appointment, unstable internet connections and privacy may be a concern for patients. With the dependency of online appointments in the height of the pandemic, however, providers and app developers have worked to make telemedicine as safe as possible.

“Many of the systems do have a way that you can test your computer or your internet connection and you can do a test call,” Holtz said. “I would highly recommend people do that test call; sometimes you have to download an app, give the permissions, and that can sometimes be a little scary for patients who aren’t on the computer that much, but the systems themselves are very secure. They’re HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant.”

By asking questions and assembling any necessary materials prior to the appointment, patients can ensure they are properly preparing for virtual appointments. Doing this preparation beforehand helps create a more successful and stress-free visit for providers and patients alike.

This story can be found in the March/April 2022 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here

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