Telemedicine is a revolutionary form of medical practice where a doctor and patient are in remote locations, using two-way voice or visual communication. This form of practice, by definition, requires technology for the essential aspect of the practice to work. So, this means that in order to take advantage of telemedicine, you must be able to work your way around technology at least a little bit or have someone that can help you set up for your visit. Do not worry if you aren’t all that familiar with any of this, we’re going into detail so you get the most out of your visit.
Because the purpose of telemedicine is to benefit patients as much as possible, there are a few differences in the process that both the patient and the physician should be aware of. This will ensure both parties are prepared for a smooth, efficient telemedicine visit. There also are a few different types of communication in telemedicine: video visits, phone calls, and in-app messaging.
Responsible Telemedicine’s primary focus is customer advocacy and representing what is most beneficial for the patient. So, we’re going to prepare you for your first telemedicine visit, whichever kind, and make sure you get the most of it.
While some of these tips may seem pretty obvious, like get a webcam or establish an internet connection, some may have slipped your mind, like taking notes! This is why we take you through the step by step (big or small) on all of the ways that you can best prepare for a telemedicine visit. Let’s get started!
1. Internet Connection
Without a working internet connection, you cannot start a video call—making this the most important aspect of setting up for a video visit with a doctor. While any internet is better than none, it is preferable that it’s a stable and fast internet connection. The faster the internet, the smoother and less “bumpy” the video call will look and sound. A slow connection can cut off words and cause either party’s image to look distorted and create misunderstanding during the visit.
For a phone call and in-app messaging, your usual phone with service should work and not require any additional set up. However, if you do not have data on your phone, you will have to connect to the internet in order for the in-app messaging or phone call to work.
2. Webcam and microphone
The next thing to consider when preparing for a video call is whether or not you will need a working webcam and microphone.
If you’re using a cell phone for your digital doctor visit, you probably don’t need to do anything. Most phones nowadays have the camera and microphone built in, you just need to make sure you give the app you are using “access” to the phone’s camera and microphone. You should be prompted to provide camera access upon opening up the video chat, but if not, you should look at the directions provided by the application for connecting the two.
If you are using a computer or laptop for this visit, you need to make sure you have the webcam and microphone connected to the computer. There are many brands, but whichever you use, make sure that all devices are correctly connected to the computer.
Practice taking videos and starting up the program beforehand to familiarize yourself with the process and check that it’s working properly.
Neither a webcam or external microphone are needed for a phone call or in-app messaging to take place.
3. Get to know the interface
Now that you have your equipment ready, get to know the interface of the application or program you may be using to interact with the physician.
If it is an app for a video call, make sure you know how to start up the call (if necessary) and how to end it.
If you are looking to have an entire consultation through messaging, make sure you know when you’re talking to the doctor by looking at the name presented in the chat. We highly believe that it’s in the patient’s best interest to double check that the person they’re talking to is, in fact, a licensed physician. The same goes for a phone call consultation with a physician. Make sure you get their name and their credentials if you haven’t already, to ensure that you are talking to a real doctor.
4. Decrease distractions and select a suitable venue
In the video call, the physician will be able to see you, and what is going on around you. You should be aware of your surroundings and what is going to be visible to the doctor. It may be advised to act as though you are even in a doctor’s office. And just because they can’t see you through a phone call or in-app messaging doesn’t mean you can skip this section.
It’s important to clear away anything that may be a distraction for the doctor, but especially for you! You do not want to lose track of your questions or any thoughts concerning your health during any form of doctor consultation, but being in remote locations does increase the risk of being distracted, so you want to mitigate this risk.
For all forms of communication, we recommend finding a secluded, quiet room where there are no people. Patient-doctor discussions are meant to stay between the patient and doctor, so do all you can to make the conversation as private as possible. Also, if you feel the doctor is not extending this same courtesy, you are welcome to let them know, but if they do not improve, Responsible Telemedicine can help.
5. Remember this is for you!
It’s normal to be a little nervous when you go to the doctor, and adding a layer of technology may either make it more or less nervewracking. Either way, remember that telemedicine is for the benefit of the patient! State all your worries and concerns and ask any questions you may have. Both you and the doctor are there for your best interest, and the situation should be treated as such.
We recommend wearing something comfortable so you can feel your best while also not being distracted by any article of clothing. Plus, being comfortable will help you stay calm and not be nervous.
6. Speak clearly
Keeping in mind that this consultation is for you, don’t forget to speak as clearly as you can. This will avoid things like misunderstandings or having questions skipped because the doctor couldn’t hear you. A challenge of telemedicine is that they cannot read your body language as well as in person. So, if you’re feeling uncertain about a diagnosis or treatment prescribed, speak up and let them know.
As far as in-app messaging goes, you have more time to write out your thoughts, but it can be hard at times to figure out the tone of a question or statement, so it is really beneficial for the patient and doctor to be as clear as possible when sending a message.
7. Take notes and ask for a follow-up!
This is important so you can look back on what you discussed during the visit, their recommendations, and their answers to your questions. You may forget what their suggestions were, so these notes can come in handy!
Make sure to ask for a follow-up appointment to continue the conversation on your ever-evolving health. The notes you take in this visit are highly likely to become useful in your next one. Perhaps you followed all of their recommendations and only some worked, you should definitely bring these to your follow-up.
One last reminder:
If you find that during your interaction or visit with the physician, they did not extend the same courtesies that you did on this list, please let us know. We are an advocate for patients to make sure they receive the utmost quality care in telemedicine, and we are here to help.