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Monday, July 15, 2024

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Real story: How to prepare for a telehealth visit

By Ali Whittier

Jennifer Brantley was diagnosed with cancer in October 2019. After months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, she had to have a tumor removed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Her surgery was set for March 25 – during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the surgery, Jennifer would also need a follow-up appointment a couple weeks later. When her doctor’s nurse called, she asked Jennifer if she’d be interested in setting up a telehealth visit.

“COVID-19 was a major concern for me due to my compromised immune system, so I jumped at the chance to do a virtual appointment. That way I wouldn’t have to leave my house,” Jennifer says. “It was nice the doctor’s office was open to helping me come up with a ‘plan B’ for my post-op appointment.”

Jennifer says the scheduling process was similar to an in-person visit, but after experiencing her own first telehealth visit, here are 3 things she recommends to help you prepare.

1. Give yourself enough time for the initial set-up

  • Ask the nurse or staff setting up the appointment what app or website they use for telehealth so you can plan enough time to get your computer or device set up.
  • Download the appropriate app or visit the website before the day of your first telehealth appointment in case you have questions.
  • If the app or site allows, test both your speakers and microphone ahead of time to make sure you can hear and be heard.

2. Prepare others in your home for the appointment

  • Find a quiet place for your visit, and let people in your home know when you need them to avoid interrupting you.
  • Consider sending a reminder message a few minutes before the appointment is scheduled to start.
  • If you have children or pets that might disrupt your conversation or distract you, consider finding a place for them somewhere in your home where they can’t be heard or finding an activity for kids to work on.

3. Treat the appointment like a normal in-office visit

  • Make sure you still have a list of questions to ask your provider during the visit.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes in case you need to show any incisions, wounds or potential issues to your provider.
  • Have a notepad and pen to write down any instructions provided or consider allowing someone to sit-in on your appointment to help you take notes if you need it.

What are some other things you should keep in mind?

Don’t be intimidated by technology.

Some health care providers have help desks that can walk you through how to download the technology you need for the appointment. Ask for a number to call if you have trouble getting the technology to work when it’s time for your appointment. Most providers will expect the possibility of glitches in the technology and understand the need to restart the visit if this happens.

Ask your provider to send any important treatment or therapy information prior to the appointment.

If you have telehealth visits with providers who need to show you how to perform treatment or therapy at home, you may consider asking them for this information before your appointment. That way when it’s time to discuss these instructions or exercises you have to do at home, you’ll have already had enough time to review and come up with any questions you can discuss together during your appointment.

On the other hand, if the visit concerns a new condition or issue you’re having, you may want to ask your provider if having a photo ahead of time will help them prepare for the upcoming visit.

Think about your privacy needs for the appointment.

You can expect privacy when you visit your provider in person, but is this something you need during a telehealth visit at home, too? Consider your comfort level for the appointment scheduled and plan the location in your home appropriately for your privacy needs.

Remember, your provider can be running late to telehealth visits, too.

Don’t hang up or leave the meeting if your provider isn’t on time. Just like being in a doctor’s office, they sometimes run late so try to be as patient as you can.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members have options for telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic – visits with in-network providers are covered with the same benefits as in-person visits, and PhysicianNow visits are free for many members through June 30.

For the latest information on our response to COVID-19, visit BCBSTupdates.com

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