A Guide to Virtual Doctor Visits

by Melissa Chichester

Telehealth is a relatively new concept that is growing in popularity. Virtual check-ins with your personal physician can be an easy and convenient option if offered by your doctor, but they are not a replacement for a routine physical exam. There are still many benefits to virtual visits, which may take place in a phone call, video conference, text, or even email. Most of the time, a virtual visit is a video conference.

Because virtual doctor visits are different, you may have different questions or needs that arise. The information below will help you make the most of your virtual appointment and know what to expect. 

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What equipment you need

For some virtual appointments, you might only need a phone. For more advanced appointments, you will need a high-speed internet connection; video capabilities on your phone, computer, or tablet; and the app your physician uses for video conferencing.

Before your appointment 

Nothing is more frustrating than having to download an update or restart your computer during a virtual visit. Before your scheduled appointment, test the program you will be using and have all the necessary updates ready. This will help you be on-time for your appointment and reduce technological frustrations. 

You should also be prepared for your visit. Even if you are speaking with your regular doctor, be ready to go over your health history. Be prepared to discuss allergies, previous surgical procedures, and past health issues.

Write down any current issues you are having beforehand so you don’t forget to mention them during your virtual appointment. 

Don’t neglect the paperwork! Your doctor will still need the same information from you as usual, including your insurance and other pertinent forms. You should also check in advance that your insurance covers virtual visits. 

Choose the right setting before your appointment. You should be in a quiet location without a lot of background noise. Don’t expect to have your virtual visit while cruising through the grocery line.

Sit in a well-lit area so your doctor can see you if you are using video conferencing.

Make sure that the doctor can see your face to make it personal. You should also eliminate distractions, such as television, family members, pets, and mobile devices. Give all of your attention to the appointment. 

What kind of appointments can be virtual?

You might be wondering how a virtual appointment can be useful. Types of common virtual appointments include:

  • Follow-up appointments for urgent care 
  • Routine medication check-ups
  • Behavioral health and therapy appointments
  • General health screenings 
  • Prenatal care checkups

People in rural areas may especially benefit from virtual screenings where it is not as easy to access healthcare. 

In some cases, your doctor might be able to provide equipment for you to monitor your health, such as a blood pressure monitor. 

At your visit, your physician can give health advice and discuss potential issues that you may need help with. 

If you need direct care

Because a virtual visit is not complete care, your doctor may recommend further care depending on what happens at your visit. If you do need direct, in-person care at that time, your physician will suggest the best choice of action for you. 

Telehealth is an evolving practice and another useful tool in your health journey. If this is something you are interested in, discuss a course of action with your healthcare physician and see what kind of virtual appointment will work for you.