Senior Health

5/7/2021 | By Kari Smith

In these unprecedented times, I recently found myself facing a new challenge for the first time: being at a doctor’s appointment in my own home! When I was first offered the telehealth appointment, I was a bit apprehensive. I didn’t know how to prepare for a telehealth visit, first of all. I wondered how it would work, if I would be able to see and hear the doctor well, and if it would feel like a “normal”, in-person visit.

After the appointment was over, I actually found myself marveling at how much time I had saved and how effortlessly I had limited my exposure to other potentially ill patients. I was surprised at how convenient it was: eliminating the drive to the office, the time spent parking and walking in, and the checking in and waiting. I even wondered how many other appointments I could change to telehealth visits!

So how do you prepare to make your experience with telehealth the best it can be?

1. Be prepared

Most doctor’s offices will have a nurse call you right before your appointment to ask you the general questions that they normally would ask before the doctor comes in. This call will come from their office, but you may not recognize the number from which they are calling.

If it is within a window of time before your appointment, be sure to answer this call so that your check-in can be completed. If you tend to be forgetful, as I do, set an alarm for a half-hour before your appointment so that you can begin to prepare yourself. Have a list medications ready, including frequency and dosage.

2. How to prepare for a telehealth visit using the right technology

It is important to complete this step BEFORE your appointment. Typically, once a nurse completes your check-in, they will send you a text or email containing a link that you will click on to connect with the doctor.

This link will usually include an option to click on to test your device’s audio and video. If you are not accustomed to using technology such as Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or other video-conferencing services, test out your camera, microphone, and speakers before the time of your medical visit. If necessary, ask a friend, family member, or an office of the medical staff to help be sure you are connected. Someone who can be in your home physically testing your hardware will be the most helpful.

3. Set up your space

Use a high-quality camera in a well-lit room so that your provider can see you. Be sure that your speakers are turned up, and test them before the doctor starts the appointment to make sure they are working correctly.

If you have a tablet, or a built-in camera on your desktop computer or laptop, this will be preferable to the small picture you would see on a smartphone. Frame yourself in the picture so that your can see you from your shoulders and up. Based on the nature of your visit, if they need to see another part of your body, they will ask and you can adjust your position.

4. Prepare your equipment

Be sure your device is plugged in or fully charged. If you are using a Wi-Fi connection, position yourself close to the router in your home so that you get the best signal. Using a computer or laptop that is directly connected to your router via an Ethernet cable will give you the best internet connection.

If there are others in your home, ensure that they are not using a lot of data (such as streaming services to watch a movie) while you are on your call, as these may use a large amount of bandwidth and limit your connection and the quality of your call.

5. Ask questions

Although your doctor is not physically in the room with you, speak to them as if they were. I tend to be forgetful when I am in front of a doctor – or to leave wishing that I had mentioned a certain symptom or asked an important question. Write down a list of talking points and questions you may have. Be sure to check off each item as it is covered, and address all issues before ending the call.

Although it can be daunting to figure out how to prepare for a telehealth visit for the first time, you may just enjoy the convenience and safety of completing this routine aspect of your health care – without leaving the comfort of your own home!

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith