Posted on May 19, 2020

Telehealth Is Here to Stay: How to Get the Most Out of a Virtual Appointment

Telehealth Is Here to Stay: How to Get the Most Out of a Virtual Appointment

As the nation eases its shelter-in-place orders and health care providers begin to reopen their offices to new safety protocols, it’s likely your health care provider will continue to offer the option of a telehealth appointment.

The continuing COVID-19 pandemic has recast health care delivery and forced providers to swing open their virtual doors.

“We’re going to see more and more of it. It’s not going away. COVID has forced our hand in changing the way we provide health care, whether we like it or not. Not everybody needs to come into the office,” said Dr. Sharlene Smith, a pediatric nurse practitioner.

Smith, DNP, MS, APRN, CPNP-AC/PC, is an assistant professor at the USF College of Nursing and sees pediatric patients at an after-hours urgent care center. This clinic joined virtually every other provider by expanding telemedicine.

Dr. Sharlene Smith is a pediatric nurse practitioner and an assistant professor at the University of South Florida College of Nursing.

A virtual visit is a good option for patients who are on routine medications and need to touch base with their provider, who can then refill prescriptions and order lab work.

But what should patients do to get the most out of an upcoming virtual visit?

Dr. Smith offers these tips:

= Be tech ready. Whether you’re using a phone or a computer, have the correct hardware and updated software. Make sure equipment is charged or plugged in. Turn off programs running in the background. Check microphone volume levels. Make sure cameras are at eye level. Find a quiet place with decent Wi-Fi and good lighting.

“There’s nothing like being in the middle of a visit and your computer is saying it needs to install an update and invariably you hit the wrong button,” Dr. Smith said. “Find a nice quiet place to have the conversation where hopefully you’re not going to have dogs barking and kids yelling.”

= Do the prep work. An in-person office visit typically includes updating paperwork. A telehealth appointment is no different. Update any paperwork through the provider’s website portal. Include insurance information, current medications, and past medical history.

= Write it down. Before the virtual visit, write down any symptoms you’re having. Have a list of current medications and dosages. Have a detailed written medical history with dates and procedures. List the questions you want to ask.

= Track your numbers. Many people can take vital signs with equipment readily available at home or on their smart watch. So weigh yourself. Take your blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature.

“Sometimes it takes a first visit between you and your provider to work as a team and to know what things you need to start bringing to your next virtual visit,” said Dr. Smith.

Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing