8 Tips for Your Telehealth Appointment

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Karon Warren on April 29, 2020
  • Over the shoulder shot of a patient talking to a doctor using a digital tablet
    Preparing for a Telehealth Appointment
    Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth (or telemedicine)—healthcare via phone, email, video and other technologies—is moving from a trend to mainstream. In fact, there are a number of ways to take advantage of telehealth, from routine checkups to appointments with specialists to urgent and emergency care. However, it’s important to prepare for your appointment beforehand to make the most of your telehealth appointment. These tips can help you navigate your telehealth appointment with your doctor, dentist or other healthcare provider to ensure you receive the care you need.
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    1. Talk to your insurance company about coverage and copays.
    Avoid any unexpected bills by checking with your insurance company to see if telehealth appointments are covered. While some states have required insurers to cover telehealth visits during the coronavirus pandemic, and Medicare has expanded its coverage for these consultations, not all insurance companies cover telehealth or limit coverage to COVID-19 related problems. And, for those that do offer coverage for telehealth appointments, you still may have to pay a copay. Regardless of your insurance coverage, all information shared during the telehealth appointment is covered by HIPAA laws.
  • Woman writing in notebook
    2. Write down your symptoms.
    If you are sick, you need to provide as much information as possible to the doctor or other provider during your telehealth appointment. Make a list of all your symptoms, and how long each one has been present. For instance, if you have or had a fever, be ready to state how long the fever has been present, what the highs and lows of the fever have been, and any medications you took to reduce the fever. If you have a visible symptom, such as a rash, take a photo or be prepared to show the rash to the doctor using videoconferencing.
  • Senior couple video conferencing with doctor through digital tablet in living room
    3. State any pre-existing conditions you have.
    During your telehealth appointment, the medical provider will need your medical history, so write down any pre-existing conditions you have and how long they have been present. (If you have been seeing the same provider for a long time, you may be able to skip an in-depth history, but they will probably ask if anything has changed since your last visit.) Likewise, if you take medication for any of these conditions, list those as well, along with any additional medicines or supplements you currently are taking. Be prepared to present a comprehensive picture of your medical history and current health status for the doctor to properly evaluate your condition.
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    4. Put medical devices you have close at hand.
    If you have a thermometer, blood pressure monitor, glucometer for measuring sugar levels, heart monitor, or even a bathroom scale, have it close by during your telehealth appointment. It’s possible your provider may request a current reading while you are talking, and you don’t want to waste time retrieving these devices during the call. At the very least, take a reading prior to your telehealth visit from each of these devices, if available, and record the reading and the time of the reading in your notes to discuss with the doctor.
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    5. Write down questions.
    Before your telehealth appointment, make a list of all the questions you have for the provider. It can be easy to forget your questions or to get sidetracked during the call, so you want to have these on hand so you address all of your concerns. Have a notepad handy, too, so you can record the doctor’s responses and to make notes regarding the information and instructions the medical provider shares with you during the call.
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    6. Find a quiet spot for your telehealth appointment.
    You don’t want your virtual appointment interrupted by your roommate, the kids or the dog, so find a quiet spot for your consultation. In addition, turn off the TV or radio so your call is not interrupted by ambient background noise and to reduce distractions during the appointment. In fact, you may want to use ‘earbuds’ or headphones to further reduce outside noise during your call or videoconference.
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    7. Prepare your device(s) beforehand.
    By their very nature, telehealth appointments require technology to facilitate the consultation with the medical provider. Whether it’s a cell phone, laptop or desktop computer, make sure it’s fully charged or plugged in, and you have a reliable internet connection. Also, download any required app or software program utilized by the medical provider in advance of the appointment, and set up your account or login information. (The telehealth provider will give you instructions beforehand.) Make sure the lighting is good in the location you want to use for the virtual appointment so the provider can see you clearly.
  • male doctor examining female patient's throat and performing a throat swab (sample of throat secretions for testing)
    8. Be ready for an in-person follow-up appointment.
    While telehealth appointments can be a great way to see a doctor without leaving your home, there are some cases where an in-person visit is necessary. Therefore, don’t be surprised if the provider directs you to make a follow-up appointment with your local doctor or, if urgent, to go to the local emergency room or urgent care center. If this turns out to be the case, remember to bring your notes from your telehealth appointment to the in-person appointment so you can advise your doctor on the information you received during the virtual call.
8 Tips to Prepare for Telehealth Appointment | Preparing for Virtual Doctor Visit
  1. A Patient’s Guide to Telemedicine: What to Do When Your Doctor Calls or Video-chats with You. Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Inc. https://www.himss.org/news/patients-guide-telemedicine
  2. Video Visits From Home: Using Telemedicine to Connect to Your Johns Hopkins Provider. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/telemedicine/video-visits.html
  3. How to Get the Most Out of Your Virtual Medical Appointment. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/04/15/828084250/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-your-virtual-medical-appointment
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Last Review Date: 2020 Apr 29
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.