Posted by Allison Grant, July 28, 2020 (last updated on November 20, 2020)
What should you expect from your telemedicine visit?
If you think you're not feeling great, sometimes the last thing you want to do is to go to a doctor's office and have to wait (and worry) for who-knows-how-long to see a doctor. But you don't have to. Telemedicine is a great alternative that will get you the answers you need, so you can start feeling better as soon as possible (and practice social distancing in full health). If you’ve never had a virtual doctor’s visit before, here’s a brief rundown of what you can expect:
- The first step is going online, finding a provider, and scheduling your appointment. If you use Solv’s website, you can instantly book a secure video visit from the safety of your home. All you need to book a telemedicine appointment is an internet connection and a smartphone or computer with a camera and a microphone.
- When you schedule your appointment, make sure to let the telemedicine service know what the primary reason for your visit is
- During your visit, you’ll talk to the doctor about your symptoms or issues They’ll be able to see any sneezing, coughing, or other visible symptoms just by looking at you, but they'll also take the time to ask about other symptoms that might not be visible.
Your telemedicine visit should take about as long as a typical doctor’s visit, minus all the wait and travel times. To make this option even more appealing, you can do the whole thing from the comfort of your own bed, which is a definite plus when the last thing you want to do is put on real clothes and face the outside world full of mysterious germs.
What do I need to do to prepare for my visit?
Once you’ve scheduled an appointment, there are several things you’ll want to do to be prepared:
- Determine what technology you need. Talk to the provider and find out if there's any technology you need or apps that you might need to download for your phone or desktop in advance of the visit. The last thing you want to have happen is for your visit time to begin and for you to spend an extra 5-10 minutes downloading a technology you didn't even know you needed. Some providers also require that you create an account with the provider’s website or app so good to check on that too!
- Gather your medical and insurance info. Essential background context such as a list of medications, allergies or pre-existing conditions are extremely helpful to help level set with your provider up front. You'll likely need to have you insurance information handy as well so a good idea to keep your insurance card within reach and photo identification so that your provider can confirm that they're speaking with the right person.
- Keep track of your symptoms. Write down as much detail as you can about your symptoms: what they are, when they started, how long you’ve had them, if they’ve gotten worse, and what you’ve already done to treat them.
- Write down your list of questions you want to ask. There's nothing worse than hanging up a call only to remember that you forgot to ask that one thing! Make a list of what you want to ask the provider ahead of time so you can make the most of your visit and don't have to worry about forgetting something.
- Take your vitals. Some providers may ask you to take your temperature or your weight before the appointment — just like they’d do if you were in person.
- Create an ideal, quiet setting. Once you’ve got everything set up for your visit, double check that you're in a quiet place with reliable internet access, and good lighting. Pro tip–have a pen and paper handy to take notes during the call.
What happens during a telemedicine visit?
During a typical telemedicine visit, you’ll video chat with a provider and discuss your current health concerns. They’ll use all that medical knowledge they’ve acquired from years of schooling and treating patients and apply it to your situation, assessing your symptoms the same way they would if you were sitting on one of those awkward doctor’s tables. You’ll get a diagnosis, recommended treatment, and, if needed, a prescription. Just like you would in-person. Are you noticing the trend? Telemedicine care is healthcare like you’d expect it to be, you just don’t have to leave your couch to use it.
It’s not just primary care visits that can be replaced with virtual care. Many specialists have also embraced telemedicine. Appointments with dermatologists, allergists, psychiatrists, oncologists, and even obstetricians can now be booked completely online. This is a win for patients who used to have to wait weeks (or, in some cases, months) for a face-to-face appointment with a specialist.
When should you use telemedicine?
During a virtual visit, a doctor can help with many of the same things that you’d normally have to wait days, weeks, or months, to discuss with your primary care doctor.
So, when should you book a telemedicine appointment? You might book a telemedicine visit when you have one of the following health concerns:
- Allergy and asthma flare-ups
- Cough, cold, flu, or other respiratory or sinus infection
- Joint aches and pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rash, infection, insect bite, or small wound
- Sore throat
- Reviewing lab or test results
- Following up on a previous visit
Exploring telemedicine options
Right now, many routine medical visits are being postponed so that more doctors are available to care for coronavirus patients. However, you still have options when it comes to getting care. Cue telemedicine, aka virtual doctor’s visits done via video call. Telemedicine allows doctors and patients to practice safe, responsible social distancing and avoid transmission from people who aren’t showing symptoms.
(Not sure whether you need telemedicine or in-person urgent care? We have a guide for that.)
What routine healthcare can you get from a telemedicine visit?
If you’re hesitant to keep your routine appointments because of the risk of going out and spreading (or catching) the infection, you can call your doctor and ask if they have a telemedicine option. During a virtual visit, your doctor can monitor symptoms of any chronic health issues you may have, just like they would in person. They can also address any new wellness questions you’ve been meaning to ask, like questions about your weight, diet, or exercise habits. If you have questions about how telemedicine works, or what kinds of routine care you can get via telemedicine, check out our complete telemedicine guide.
Pro tip: Most of the routine doctors’ visits that you should have in your 30s can be seen using telemedicine.
Who can use telemedicine?
If you have a smartphone, tablet, or computer with internet and a webcam, you can probably use telemedicine for your routine doctors’ appointments. If you have an elective procedure coming up, like a colonoscopy or a dental exam that can’t be done via telemedicine, your doctor will probably recommend postponing it.
Will my insurance cover my telemedicine appointment?
It depends on your specific plan. Right now, to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, many insurance companies are waiving fees for telemedicine appointments to encourage you to choose virtual visits over in-person care. If you’re not sure how to figure out if your insurance company is one of them–or if your insurance covers telemedicine in the first place–you can download the Solv app, snap a photo of your insurance card, and see an outline of your specific coverages.