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Telemedicine: What You Need to Know

Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, allows for virtual appointments (remote visits, but in real time) with your healthcare professional using your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Check with your provider to see if they offer virtual appointments so you can reduce your exposure to the coronavirus. Many insurance plans cover telemedicine, including Medicare. Veterans also have access to telemedicine through the Veterans Administration.

Telemedicine can also include remote monitoring of your health by a healthcare professional, most often a telehealth nurse. By using a special monitor that’s connected to a blood pressure machine or other device, the nurse can check on you at any time.

Healthcare professionals can’t diagnose COVID-19 through telemedicine, but they can provide medical advice, tell patients how to quarantine and when they should go to the hospital, order tests, and write prescriptions. For more information contact the American Telemedicine Association.

Be Prepared

To make the most of your virtual visits with your care team, it may be helpful to have the following tools ready:

  1. A bathroom scale - your care team will likely want to know your weight so your charts can be kept up-to-date. Weight gains or losses can indicate changes in your health that your team will want to monitor.

  2. A list of your medications - having your prescription bottles handy or a list of what you're taking will help your care team assess any potential changes to your prescriptions, based on the visit.

  3. Blood pressure machine - if you have an at-home blood pressure cuff or machine, your care team may ask you to take a reading to monitor any changes to your blood pressure.

  4. Blood sugar monitor - if you have diabetes, be sure to have your blood sugar monitor handy. Your care team may ask you to take a reading to monitor any changes. Having a log of recent readings could also be helpful.

  5. Any questions - this worksheet can help you keep track of what to ask and any follow-up information.

Don't be afraid of telemedicine!

Your care team wants to keep you safe and the best way to do that is to keep you at home.

  1. Using the App - if you're concerned about using the app, take 10-15 minutes (or more time if you need it!) before your scheduled appointment to get comfortable with the platform.

  2. Your information is secure - your care team has to follow strict guidelines to protect your information. In order to keep things secure on your end, use your at-home secure WiFi connection or phone data plan. Find a quiet place in your home where you can have privacy to discuss your concerns with your care team. Using headphones can help.

  3. Don't skip appointments - just like in-person appointments, your telemedicine appointments are critical to your care. Waiting until things are "back to normal" to attend your appointments may affect your health.

  4. Express your concerns - if you're uncomfortable using telemedicine, share those concerns with your team! Telemedicine is legitimate healthcare but since it's new, it's normal to be hesitant. Talk with your provider if you're concerned about insurance coverage or security. Your healthcare team wants you to be comfortable and healthy!

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