Virtual meetings are growing in popularity — and not just at work. Rather than going on the road to see doctors in person, more people are choosing to discuss their health over video.
These virtual appointments are part of a broader trend called telemedicine. The benefit may sound like it was designed to appeal to millennials, but they’re not the only ones taking advantage. Most adults are open to a telemedicine appointment, according to a survey of adults over 40.
Why? Convenience is a major factor. It’s tough to schedule a doctor visit, take time off work, travel to the doctor’s office and sit in a waiting room just to have a short meeting with a physician. Telemedicine eliminates all that. But just because you can see your doctor from the comfort of your couch doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take your appointment seriously.
Virtual appointments still require preparation. Here are five things you can do before your next telemedicine appointment to make sure it’s every bit as valuable as an old-fashioned face-to-face meeting.
1. Have Your Medical History and Medications Handy
If you’re among the 33% of millennials who don’t have a primary care physician, or you’re just looking for a convenient option to be seen, it’s likely that your appointment will be with a doctor you’ve never met. Have a summary of your medical history at the ready. This should include any major illnesses or chronic conditions you have as well as the dosages of your current medications. Also remember to list vitamins, birth control and over-the-counter medications you take regularly, such as allergy pills or antacids. This will give the doctor a quick overview of your health so they can make more informed treatment decision.
2. Take Notes Before the Appointment
Have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish during the appointment. Do you need to discuss your symptoms? Understand your lab results? Switch to a new medication? Take notes in advance about what you want the doctor to know about your symptoms or condition. The doctor will want to know the specifics of what you’re experiencing and how long you’ve been dealing with the issue. Because they can’t physically examine you, they’ll rely on the information you give them (in addition to what they can see through the camera) to understand what’s going on.
Even in a setting you feel comfortable in, like your home, it’s normal to feel a little nervous about seeing a doctor and forget what you wanted to bring up. Having notes on hand will ensure that you don’t leave out any details, so make sure to write down any questions you plan to ask ahead of time.
3. Test Your Equipment
How many times have you seen the first few minutes of a meeting or webinar get eaten up as everyone works out technical difficulties? Don’t let that happen to your telemedicine appointment. Test your speakers and your camera in advance. Also make sure you’ve downloaded the right video conferencing software, if necessary, and that all the technology you need is compatible with your computer or phone. If you’ll need any other tools — like a thermometer, inhaler or blood pressure monitor — during the appointment, check that it’s all within reach and working properly.
4. Find a Private, Well-Lit Location
You wouldn’t appreciate it if your doctor tried to run an appointment with the lights off, so avoid dark spaces when you settle in for your telemedicine appointment. Look for a spot with plenty of light so that you show up clearly on the screen.
Try also to be aware of whether your chosen site will put you in the way of people or other distractions. Although you may schedule the visit on your lunch break, you may not want to talk about your depression symptoms or the results of your latest lab test in your cubicle, where everyone can hear. If you can’t be at home, consider booking a small meeting room or using your office’s wellness room.
5. Know the Cost
Not only is telemedicine convenient, but it’s also usually more affordable than traditional appointments. In one study, patients who went virtual saved anywhere from $19 to $121 per visit. The majority of insurance plans now also cover telemedicine for varying copays.
Still, even thought there may be less money in play, it’s smart to know exactly how much you’re going to pay for a virtual appointment. To avoid being surprised by your bill, call your insurance company or benefits administrator to verify the cost of the visit before you jump on a call.
Telemedicine appointments aren’t likely to go anywhere, so it makes sense to master telemedicine prep now. It’s not difficult to go into your next virtual doctor visit fully prepared to get the health answers you need. Your doctor will be so impressed, they may not even realize you’re secretly wearing sweatpants.