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How to Prepare for Your First Telemedicine Visit

Learn about telehealth tools to help you stay connected and healthy

Written by: Andrew Hall.

Woman with mask takes part in virtual doctor's appointment.

Key Takeaways

  • If you’re not sure if your needs fit a telehealth visit, contact your provider’s office. Virtual medicine tools can treat and diagnose more than people typically think.

  • Your doctor needs to hear and see you clearly, so test your video and audio before joining the appointment.

  • It’s still a doctor’s visit, even if you’re not at the office. Be prepared to move closer to your screen or demonstrate a range of motion if your symptoms require more than a conversation to reach a diagnosis.

Receive Your Care from a Healthy Distance

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed healthcare delivery throughout the world, and many doctors are now using telemedicine services to diagnose and treat a range of medical conditions. Patients can start with a telehealth visit and later schedule medical services such as ultrasounds, lab draws, X-rays, or imaging.

A sample of common concerns for a telehealth visit include:

  • Allergies
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Back pain
  • Chronic disease, e.g., diabetes management
  • Cold and flu
  • Earache
  • Infections, e.g., pink eye
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Burns and rashes
  • Sports injuries

What You Can Expect with Telehealth

Every telemedicine platform is different, but the process is typically standardized:

  1. You will receive a digital message from your doctors’ office with a link to join the appointment.
  2. You can join the appointment over the telephone, video, or even chat/messaging.
  3. If telephonic, the incoming phone call may appear as an 800 or general office phone number.

A mobile device or computer with a camera will allow the doctor to examine areas of concern. Other integrated tools, like an Apple Watch or Fitbit, can also capture useful clinical data. Combined, a provider can make an evidence-based diagnosis by way of telehealth visits.

Getting Prepared for Your Virtual Visit

Leading up to your first virtual appointment, here are some tips to get the most from your time online with your provider:

Check Your Technology

Video connections require a computer or mobile device with a video-enabled camera and speakers. You should always log in early to your visit to check if your sound and video are working correctly. Make sure the device you plan to use is fully charged or plugged into a power outlet. Lastly, you should have good Wi-Fi, data, or broadband/internet connection.

Find a comfortable place

Identify a quiet place with adequate natural light. Avoid sitting with a window behind you so that the doctor can see you. Finding a room close to your internet router or connecting an ethernet cable directly to the device will provide the best internet connection. Turn off other electronic devices in the room such as a TV or radio, to ensure your device’s microphone picks up no background noise.

Make a list of questions, concerns, and health goals

Before your appointment, write down your questions, symptoms, and concerns about your health that you intend to discuss or ask your doctor. Prepare to answer general questions so your doctor can obtain a full picture of your medical history when you join the platform. Bring a list of all the current medications, prescriptions, supplements, and vitamins you are taking.

Have your preferred pharmacy & health insurance card available

Having your preferred pharmacy phone number and address readily available will also be necessary, in addition to your primary care physician’s name and contact information, insurance card, and payment information.

Dress for the occasion

Even though you will be at home, your physician may also ask you to stand, walk, or perform certain physical activities to evaluate your movement best. Choose comfortable or loose-fitting clothing that does not restrict your movement.

It’s Still A Doctor Visit From Wherever You Are

Similar to in-person office visits, there is a charge for each telemedicine appointment. Just like copay and deductibles, the cost will vary based on the physician and your insurance plan. Be sure to review your plan’s benefits so you are aware of what may be covered.


Are telemedicine and telehealth the same thing?

Telemedicine and telehealth are not the same, but technically telemedicine is a telehealth subset. Telehealth also includes non-clinical uses of telecommunications technology such as self-monitoring, provider and patient education, and medical records management. Telehealth is an effective way to monitor and engage your health goals between doctor visits.

Is the quality of a virtual visit the same as an in-person visit?

Telemedicine is a handy resource for delivering the same quality of care as an in-person visit. Research and outcomes support the quality of telemedicine.

Is telemedicine private and secure?

Yes, but you should never participate in an appointment on consumer apps like Facebook or a platform you don’t trust. Your provider should hold virtual meetings using an encrypted platform designed for security. If you plan to see a new doctor virtually, you can ask what platform they use and research its security levels. Nearly all providers use some form of encrypted platform to provide the highest levels of privacy and security.

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