The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services and state agencies have encouraged the use of telehealth services to maintain social distancing practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth can either be a phone call or a video-conference between a patient and their health care provider. Carmel Dyer, MD, a geriatrician at UT Physicians Center for Healthy Aging in Bellaire and executive vice chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, provides information to help you prepare for a successful call or virtual visit with your physician.
Have a quiet place for a visit
Clear communication is important when you are not in the same room as your physician. Avoid loud rooms so you can both hear each other.
Write down specific questions or concerns
Keep a pen and paper handy and jot down questions or concerns you have before your telehealth visit. It’s also nice to take notes from your meeting to help remember key points your doctor may have brought up.
Have a list of your medications handy
Be ready to list your medications, the dosages, and how often you take them. This list should include your over-the-counter medicines and vitamins, even if you only take them as needed. Mention to your physician if there were any recent changes to your medications and if you need any refills.
If possible, know your vital signs
If you can, record your vital signs in advance (ideally within the previous 24 hours). Vital signs you can record include blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and weight – all you need is a home blood pressure machine, a thermometer, and a scale.
Report any difficulties you may have doing normal daily activities
Daily activities to monitor are cooking, cleaning, getting transportation, taking medications, using the telephone, paying your bills, walking without fear of falling, using the toilet, bathing, meeting basic hygiene needs, and eating.
Ask questions and repeat instructions
This is your time with your physician, be sure to ask questions and repeat any instructions your health care provider gave you during your telehealth visit. By doing this, you ensure that you heard everything correctly.
Determine how you should follow up
Before the end of your call or virtual visit, make plans on how you should follow up. When should you reach back out? What is the contact information and date and time for your next regularly scheduled appointment? What symptoms should you be looking for?
Things to consider if you have an upcoming virtual visit:
- Select a spot with good lighting. Avoid sitting with your back to a window, as that can darken your video image.
- Log in to your appointment early to ensure your device, audio, and video are working properly.
- Make sure your web cam is hitting you at eye level.
- Check your sound, volume, and microphone to ensure nothing is muted and everything is operating properly.
Telehealth is a new way of providing care that is necessary and helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the future, this may become another avenue for UT Physicians and UTHealth doctors and practitioners to better serve our patient population.
For additional COVID-19 resources, visit our information center.