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How to get the most out of your telemedicine appointment

Coronavirus has inspired a surge of demand for telemedicine services. Here’s what you need to know before you try it for yourself.

Telemedicine and telehealth are exactly what they sound like. The World Health Organization defines them as “the delivery of healthcare services, using information and communication technologies.” In other words, you’ll be going to your doctor the way you’re attending most meetings during the Covid-19 pandemic: Virtually, by using the videoconferencing features on your laptop, tablet or mobile phone.

The concept in healthcare isn’t new, but its use has expanded greatly now that a significant percentage of the population is under some kind of stay-at-home order. Indeed, telemedicine services are seeing record-shattering demand, with many experts predicting this trend will continue even after the coronavirus has passed.

All of which is to say that you might have been thinking about using a telehealth service for non-emergency medical needs, and wondering how different telemedicine is from a regular, in-person appointment. The short (and happy) answer is “not very.” But we spoke to a trusted provider, along with a colleague who recently had a telemedicine virtual visit, to find out what exactly you should know before your next — and possibly first — telehealth appointment. Here’s what they told us.

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You might already have a dependable telemedicine provider

Haven Life customers can enjoy 15% off any single service provided by CVS MinuteClinic, a popular teleheath provider (and in-person option), as part of the Haven Life Plus rider. When CVS describes the process of a telehealth consultation, it sounds reassuringly similar to a standard trip to the doctor.

“MinuteClinic Video Visits give patients the opportunity to connect with a health care provider via a video call initiated through their computer or mobile device,” says a spokesperson. “Prior to the session, each patient will complete a health questionnaire,” much the same way that you’d fill out a form in your doctor’s waiting room before your in-person appointment.

“During a MinuteClinic Video Visit, the provider will assess the patient’s condition and determine the appropriate course of treatment following evidence-based clinical care guidelines,” just as they would IRL. They’ll ask questions, and make recommendations based on your answers. For patients who require a prescription, it can be sent to their regular pharmacy. “And should it be determined that the patient should be seen in person by a health care provider for follow-up care or testing, they will receive a recommendation to visit the appropriate point of care for follow-up,” the spokesperson said.

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Ask someone you trust about their telehealth experience

Even if you’re not using MinuteClinic, the above is a good summary of what to expect when using a telehealth program. That said, we appreciated the perspective of Haven Life’s Brand Director, Adam Weinberg, who recently had his first telehealth appointment (with his long-term doctor). Even though he was required to do numerous motor skills tests, he was pleasantly surprised by the experience. “It was pretty seamless,” he says. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, or how thorough it would be, but it was like a usual appointment.” This is reassuring, as were some tips and tricks Adam passed along about receiving health care services via a virtual visit.

Book a meeting room (in your house)

These days you might be Zooming with your friends and relatives all over the house, but you’re better off doing your telehealth appointment in a quiet part of your home where you won’t be disturbed and you feel comfortable speaking freely. Also, make sure the room you choose has a strong, consistent wifi signal. If your mother cuts out for a moment, you may not miss much. (Sorry, mom!) But it’s different with a doctor. The last thing you want is to miss an important detail when receiving virtual care from your healthcare provider.

Make sure your device is ready

If you’ve been working from home lately, the camera and microphone on your computer and laptop are probably operating fine, but you’ll want to make sure they’re functioning properly before the telemedicine appointment with your provider. Whether you’re using your phone, laptop or a tablet device, you’ll also want to check it has enough battery.

Consider using a camera operator

If the physician will need to get a good look at you to provide medical care, place your device somewhere that makes it easy—a well-lit space in full view of your machine’s camera. In Adam’s case, because his doctor needed to see him do various motor skills tests, “I propped my camera up on something in the kitchen,” he says.

Nonetheless, “at one point I needed my wife to come and hold the camera so the doctor could see my feet as I did a heel-toe test,” he says. If you may need similar assistance, make arrangements before your telehealth consultations begin.

Dress for the occasion

A telehealth appointment can feel strange and awkward. Don’t make it more so by wearing anything you wouldn’t wear in public. You don’t have to dress for a wedding or anything, but maybe leave the bathrobe behind. And dress practically. If you’ll want to show the physician a rash on your arm, a long-sleeved dress or sweater probably won’t make things easier.

Make notes ahead of time

Finally, although this is a high-tech, digital process, you might want to get analog for a moment. If you’re new to using a telehealth service, you may feel distracted by the unfamiliar nature of it. In that case, it’s useful to write down notes ahead of time about what you want to discuss with your doctor during the virtual appointments. Don’t make them on the device you’re using, since it means you’ll have to toggle between apps. Use paper. In telemedicine, as in regular visits, it’s important to tell your doctor everything they need to know and to ask them all the questions you want answers to. Just don’t ask them to help you find the mute button when your kids barge into your appointment.

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About Michael Davis

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Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus.html

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