Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Next Telehealth Visit

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Tue Jun 14 2022.

Senior woman white hair on laptop

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has exploded in popularity. At first, doctors encouraged virtual visits to help slow the spread of the virus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. But as the pandemic dragged on, many began relying on telemedicine for even basic services, like sick visits, prescription refills, and referrals.

With access to vaccines and other effective treatments, more people are returning to in-person appointments. Even so, telemedicine is here to stay. A study conducted earlier this year, by Jones Lang and LaSalle, found that 38% of healthcare visits occur virtually.

If you're 65 or older or experience mobility issues, attending in-person medical appointments can be a hassle. Telehealth provides a quick and convenient way to access care, but it's crucial to prepare in advance. Here are our top tips for getting the most out of your next telehealth visit:

1) Gather the necessary paperwork

Before visiting the doctor in person (or online), it's crucial to gather all of the necessary information. Generally speaking, it's a good idea to have the following documents on-hand:

  • Health insurance information

  • Results from recent medical tests or preventive screenings

  • Names and contact information for any doctors or specialists you've visited recently

  • Names of the medications, vitamins, and supplements you take

  • Questions you'd like answers to

  • List of any unusual symptoms you're experiencing

If you have a chronic medical condition, like high blood pressure or diabetes, it's also a good idea to bring your latest blood pressure reading or the results from your most recent glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test.

Pro Tip: If you're a family caregiver, contact your loved one's primary care physician to see if they offer telemedicine. That's especially true if your care recipient has poor mobility or a compromised immune system.

2) Choose a room that's quiet and well-lit

During a telemedicine appointment, you need to be able to focus. Eva Shelton, MD, a resident physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and a content developer at Mochi Health, says it's helpful to be in a private, well-lit room.

"Find an accommodation that allows you to be present in a conversation with your doctor, whether that's in your office, living room, yard, or somewhere else," Shelton said. "If it's a video visit, make sure there's good lighting, so your provider can see you."

At the same time, try to limit distractions. Turn off the TV and the radio, and tell anyone else at home you're preparing to take a call. Don't worry about tidying up or investing in expensive electronics.

"Doctors are focused on being able to see you and sufficiently conduct the visit," Dr. Shelton said. "It's not how high-tech or beautiful your house is. If you’re nervous, ask a loved one to provide support like you would at an in-person visit."

3) Set up and test the equipment (if possible)

Every medical provider does telehealth differently.

"Telemedicine is a broad term that encompasses various types of virtual visits, including phone and video," said Dr. Shelton. "You don't necessarily need a smartphone or an internet connection. All you need is a phone to make it happen."

Still, it's important to test everything in advance. Electronic devices like laptops and smartphones are notoriously finicky. Gayle Byck, Ph.D., BCPA, a board-certified patient advocate who works with older adults recommends:

  • Testing your microphone and camera (if you're having a video call)

  • Making sure your phone, tablet, or computer is fully charged

  • Adjusting the lighting so it's easy for your doctor to see you

  • Closing unnecessary tabs or programs

  • Knowing how to turn the mute button off and on

  • Downloading the telemedicine app and testing it (if there is one)

Since many seniors are hearing impaired, you might also want to use headphones.

Hadassah Kupfer, Au.D., CCC-A, a licensed audiologist with a private practice in New York City, says that headphones are much more effective than computer speakers or a mobile speakerphone.

"Not only will headphones boost the volume and enable the conversation to flow into both ears, but it will also isolate them from distracting sounds in the room," Dr. Kupfer said. 

"If your loved one happens to have Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, it's very convenient to use their cellphone to automatically stream the audio from the conversation or video call into their hearing aids for enhanced clarity."

4) Have a friend or family member take notes

During a telemedicine visit, you need to be able to focus, ask questions, and follow your doctor's instructions. With so much going on, it can be difficult to remember what happened when the appointment’s over. Instead of trying to handle everything on your own, have a friend or loved one assist. You can have them take notes, or ask them to record the entire visit.Apps like MedCorder make this process incredibly easy.

5) Wear comfortable clothing that's easy to remove

Many telemedicine visits include an audio and video component. If your doctor is monitoring your recovery after surgery or another major procedure, they'll likely have to look at specific parts of your body.

For example, if you recently had a knee replaced, your doctor might ask you to point your camera at the scar so they can check for swelling, bruising, or redness. Likewise, if you have a rash on your abdomen, they might ask you to lift your shirt, so they can see it.

6) Understand that telemedicine isn't always the right solution

Telemedicine is quick, convenient, and covered by medicare, but it isn't always the right choice. Certain health problems require in-person examination, lab tests, and/or diagnostic imaging.

"For any condition where a physical exam could change the course of management, telemedicine shouldn't be used," said Rajinder Chahal, MD, a physician and founder of WhiteCoatRemote.com, a community and job board for telemedicine positions.

"Telemedicine, however, can be used as a triage system so that your provider can decide if they feel coming in is necessary."

Telemedicine: preparation makes perfect

"Before anything else, preparation is the key to success." - Alexander Graham Bell

Taking the time to prepare for a telemedicine appointment might seem like a hassle, but it's absolutely crucial if you want to get the most out of the visit.

By following these tips and tricks, you can prevent technical glitches and enjoy the checkup with your provider. To access more helpful caregiving content, please visit our resource page.

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance B2B and B2C medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.