With COVID-19 still ongoing, virtual meetings are becoming more standard for almost everything. But what about healthcare? Going into a health provider’s office is still one of the main ways people can be exposed to COVID-19, so finding other ways to receive treatment such as telemedicine can greatly reduce risk.
This is why we’ve made a how-to guide for using telemedicine.
- Who can use telemedicine?
Telemedicine has become more standardized for almost everyone during the time of COVID-19. Information about whether a provider does virtual appointments can often be found on their website. Additionally, calling the provider directly to ask about a virtual appointment is a great way to set one up. Calling ahead for in-person visits is almost always recommended anyway. In some states it is required that a person visit a provider in person at least once before doing virtual appointments.
- What software will I need?
Unfortunately, there is no one standard software all providers use for virtual appointments. Many providers will have their own software set up so that all you have to do is fill out a form online or through email and the video will work in most common web browsers. In most cases, common platforms like Skype, Zoom or Facetime are not used because they are not secure enough to guarantee privacy. The best way to find out what software you will need is to check your provider’s website or call their office.
- What can I expect from a telemedicine appointment?
Telemedicine appointments are similar to in-person appointments, except the examination is explained to your provider. First you will generally do an intake with a medical assistant or nurse on the phone, then typically the provider will call you on video for the appointment. During the intake they will ask you questions about what’s going on. When you speak with the provider you can fill in with more detail.
- What kinds of medical appointments can be done virtually?
Medical appointments that can be done virtually include appointments to receive a referral or prescription, appointments asking for medical advice about a situation, or questions that can be resolved with a visual examination. Appointments that lead to medical testing like a blood or urine sample will generally then result in a referral to a lab where this can be completed. The provider may choose to talk to you about your lab results on the phone or in another virtual meeting. If a visit in person is more appropriate for your medical issue, the provider will let you know and help you set that up. For more complex care that may require specialized equipment, it’s usually best to call in to an in-person appointment or urgent care center. Telemedicine is not appropriate for emergencies. For medical emergencies, it’s best to go to the emergency room or call 911.
- Does insurance cover telemedicine?
Yes, in almost all cases common insurance carriers, Medicare and Medicaid will all cover telemedicine visits as though they were regular doctor visits. In some cases there may even be savings offered as telemedicine is cheaper to provide than an in-person visit. In some states, it’s required that a patient establish a relationship with a provider in person before moving to virtual appointments.