The next time you call your doctor’s office, don’t be surprised if they ask if you would like to schedule a virtual visit. Telehealth is not new, but its popularity has grown in recent years as video technology has advanced and become more readily available.
Telehealth offers numerous benefits over traditional in-person visits – especially for individuals with chronic illnesses, or those with mobility issues. High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases require regular check-ups. Virtual visits can be a convenient and cost-effective way to manage your disease. For older adults who have difficulty moving or do not have access to reliable transportation, telehealth appointments can be an effective solution.
Read on to learn more about telehealth, including the equipment you need and tips to help you prepare for a virtual visit with your doctor.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth refers to medical, mental health, or other related healthcare appointments that are conducted virtually. Patients connect with their doctor, therapist, specialist, or other medical professionals either by phone or video – providing a convenient option for busy parents and older adults with mobility or transportation challenges.
What Equipment Do I Need for a Telehealth Visit?
The type of visit you have scheduled will determine the equipment you will need for your appointment. If it is a phone call – either a landline or cell phone with a strong signal will suffice. For video calls, your doctor’s office will likely send instructions via email prior to your visit with what equipment you will need, and how to test the connection before your visit. A laptop with a webcam, a tablet or a smartphone are usually fine. Just make sure you have a high-speed internet connection, and you are comfortable with the technology you plan to use.
Practical Tips to Make Your Telehealth Visit Easier
Although telehealth appointments are similar to in-person visits, there are obviously some significant differences. The National Institute on Aging offers the following suggestions to help you make the most of your next virtual visit:
- Pick Your Spot
One of the biggest advantages of telehealth appointments is the ability to see your doctor while you are at home. Some thought should go into where you decide to sit for your telehealth visit though. If possible, choose a spot that is quiet and free from distractions. Depending on the length and type of visit, you might want to sit at a desk or table so you can be comfortable.
- Test Your Sound
Being able to hear during your appointment is very important. In addition to choosing a spot that is quiet, be sure to test the audio settings on the device you are planning to use before your appointment. If you have trouble hearing, you may want to consider using a headset for your visit or ask if closed captioning is an option.
- Consider Inviting a Friend
If telehealth appointments are new, and if you are uncomfortable with technology, you might want to invite a close friend or relative to join you for your visit. In addition to providing a comforting presence, they can help make sure you don’t miss anything important the doctor says.
- Be Prepared
Just like in-person visits, come to your appointment prepared with any questions that you might have for your doctor. In addition to a list of current medications, you may want to have a journal or notebook close by so you can jot down anything important you want to remember. If you have asked someone to attend the appointment with you, you can ask them to take notes, so you are free to converse with your doctor.
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This blog was originally published on December 2, 2021 and updated in 2023.