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7 Steps To Prepare For Your First Telemedicine Appointment

Imagine that you're traveling for work, and you feel a sudden sore throat coupled with sinus pain. Since you're on the road, you can't get to your primary care doctor, and you worry you'll miss tomorrow's big conference.

So you do some research and determine that telemedicine is a good option for you to get a diagnosis and care for your symptoms. But what do you need for this first visit?

This guide will explore the world of virtual healthcare and provide a detailed checklist to prepare for your first telemedicine visit.

What is telemedicine?

Telemedicine connects patients with medical professionals in real time by phone or online. Thanks to telemedicine, medical professionals can now evaluate, diagnose and treat patients using technology like video conferencing and smartphones - all without the need for an in-person visit.

Still, telemedicine acts like an in-person doctor visit: Your online doctor provides the same level of health care that you would receive in an office. During your appointment, your doctor discusses your symptoms and develops a treatment plan.

But it’s important to note that telemedicine is used for non-emergency health situations, like a cold, fever, skin condition, or sinus infection.

Who uses telemedicine?

People choose telemedicine for different reasons - mainly because it's a convenient way to get medical care without leaving your home.

Maybe you're unable to travel to a doctor's office because of medical reasons or lack transportation. Or you might live in a rural area without medical services, so seeing a doctor requires traveling long distances. If so, telemedicine could be the answer, better fitting your schedule and saving you precious time.

Since telemedicine visits happen in the privacy of your own home, you don't have to worry about travel time, long spells in the waiting room, or taking time off of work.

What conditions does telemedicine cover?

Telemedicine covers everyday illnesses such as the flu, conjunctivitis (pink eye), bladder infections, yeast infections, acid reflux, and certain skin conditions. Certain telehealth professionals can also provide treatment plans for mental health services, like the treatment of depression, anxiety or stress.

What telemedicine doesn't include are emergency-related health concerns such as stroke, heart attacks, and major accidents.

Your telemedicine checklist

Now that you know a bit more about telemedicine, you may have questions on how to prepare for your first appointment. Follow this checklist to make the most of your appointment.

#1. Choose a private place

Finding spur-of-the-moment privacy can sometimes be difficult, especially if you live with other people. So before your appointment, choose a quiet room for your virtual appointment and ask your family or roommates to respect your privacy. This way you won't worry about interruptions.

#2. Consider technical aspects

Whether you're using a smartphone, computer or tablet, it's recommended to learn how to use the telemedicine company's app or video chat software beforehand. Some telemedicine companies may use well-known video services such as FaceTime (for Mac users), WhatsApp, and Skype (Windows). Or you might decide to simply speak to your doctor over the phone, if that's an option.

Check with your telemedicine company ahead of time to learn the ins and outs. It'll help ease any stress or worry about the technicalities of the visit.

#3. Prepare your medical history

When booking your appointment with an online doctor, you'll be asked to fill in your complete medical history and answer questions related to your symptoms. Be sure to gather relevant documents regarding your medical history ahead of time. For example, if your primary care physician offers an online health portal, it's recommended to have your information pulled up and ready to go for your visit.

Your telemedicine doctor may also ask you questions about your lifestyle, job and family life and, if appropriate, your mental health history. The purpose of the appointment is to provide you with the best possible care and treatment. Sharing personal details allows your doctor to diagnose and provide quality care.

#4. Get your documents ready

Like any doctor's appointment, you should be ready with the following pieces of information:

  • Your list of prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and supplements.
  • Your pharmacy phone number and address.
  • Your primary doctor's name and contact info.
  • Insurance or credit card information.

#5. Jot down questions to ask

It's natural for a doctor's appointment to make you a little nervous - especially when it's with a new doctor. So you may forget to ask crucial questions during your visit.

That's why it's recommended to make a list of questions to ask your online doctor. While each person's healthcare situation is unique, here are seven sample questions to get you started:

  • What is the diagnosis?
  • Will I need any medical tests?
  • What can I do to get better?
  • Do I need a prescription?
  • What do I do if my symptoms continue?
  • How can I access the information/treatment plan from today's appointment?
  • Can I contact you if I have follow up questions?

#6. Write down your treatment plan

Your treatment plan may be as simple as, "drink plenty of liquids and get some rest." But in some cases, you may need to have a prescription filled or to make an appointment to see another doctor or specialist in person. If possible, take notes on the treatment plan and what your next steps are during the appointment.

#7. Discuss follow-up care

In some cases, one appointment is all you need to diagnose and treat routine health conditions like a cold or the flu. But if symptoms persist or you need ongoing care to check chronic conditions, you may need follow-up care through another telemedicine appointment or in person. You may also need a prescription, so discussing the next step is helpful.

Fast facts about telemedicine

Today, telemedicine is becoming more and more common. Here are some fast facts based on a white paper published by FAIR Health between 2014 and 2018:

  • The number of telemedicine treatments increased by 1,393% between 2014 and 2018.
  • After analyzing 29 billion private insurance claims, the study discovered that between 2016 to 2017, telehealth services especially rose by 53%.
  • Urban areas experienced a 1,227% growth in telemedicine patients.
  • The biggest group choosing telehealth were older millennials between the ages of 31-40.
  • For decades, the U.S. Government has also supported telemedicine in rural areas to help rural populations access quality healthcare.

Given this support and its rising popularity, telemedicine may become the new norm. The benefits are well-known, too:

  • Convenient access: Patients can connect with healthcare providers easily in urban and rural areas.
  • Lower treatment costs: Individuals, employers and insurance companies may benefit from lower prices when patients receive treatment and advice through telemedicine rather than using urgent care or emergency services.
  • Specialist care: Telemedicine connects patients in rural areas with medical experts.
  • Patient-centered care: Being able to talk with a doctor online at any time makes treatment focused on the patient and may improve positive health outcomes.

How to get telemedicine care

Check with your health insurance company to see if telemedicine is an offered benefit. If it's not, you can get a "Teladoc" quote and purchase a plan through our site. The process is easy and takes minutes: The online application only requires your zip code, name and age. Once you enter this information, you'll receive your quote immediately.

Teladoc is a large network of board-certified doctors and pediatricians who provide virtual healthcare anywhere at any time. Telehealth services offered through Teladoc depend on the health plan but can cover everything from everyday medical problems to mental health concerns.

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