Getting help with access
Even if you might like to try telehealth, you may have trouble accessing online services.
I don’t have internet access
Lifeline is a federal government program that helps eligible households pay for internet services and internet connected devices.
If your health care provider uses a secure, password-protected portal, you may also be able to access telehealth services at libraries, community centers, or other places offering internet access to the public. Video or phone discussions may not be advisable in a public environment.
I don't have health insurance
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more people qualify for financial help and lower premiums on health insurance plans. Most customers can qualify for a plan that includes health care provider visits, prescription medications, and preventive services for $10 per month, or less.
I'm not confident using technology for telehealth
Meeting your health care provider online may feel a bit uncomfortable at first. With practice, telehealth appointments can be as easy as making a phone call.
Tip: Are you new to telehealth? Get tips and information on the basics of telehealth (PDF).
Your health care provider will likely ask you to confirm your telehealth visit in the days before your appointment. Confirmation is typically done by text message, phone call, or messages in a patient portal.
Before you log on to your appointment, you may receive instructions on how to sign onto the video chat with your health care provider. Give yourself plenty of time to get set up for your appointment. If you are having trouble getting online, you can message your provider or call them for help.
There are a lot of telehealth video platforms out there. Each one will look a bit different than the others, but all of them have a few common features. Once you are logged in, here are a few things to look for:
This button controls your camera. When you see a slash through it, that means your health care provider cannot see you.
This button controls your microphone. When you see a slash through it, that means your health care provider cannot hear you.
When you click this button, a chat box will open up. The chat box lets you type and send messages to your health care provider.
This button is usually red. Clicking on it will end your telehealth video meeting.
Become familiar with locating and using telehealth buttons.
Accessing documents for telehealth
Your health care provider may ask you to fill out forms before or after your telehealth appointment. Some providers allow you to provide information directly on their website or through their patient portal, but some may ask you to download documents.
The most common kind of document you’ll receive is a portable document format (PDF) file. If you see “.pdf” at the end of a file name, that means it’s a PDF file. You’ll need a document reader to view, print, and fill out PDFs.
What to do when you’re having trouble
Technical issues happen to everyone and a lot of the time, the issues are not your fault. If you’re having technical problems during your telehealth appointment, here are a few things you can do to fix them:
- Close your web browser, then open it again. Your health care provider’s telehealth website may need a quick reset.
- Turn off your internet connection, then turn it on again. There might be a temporary issue with your network.
- Call your health care provider’s office on the phone. Someone should be available to walk you through your technical issues or help you reschedule your telehealth appointment.
Improving digital literacy
Digital literacy means safely sharing information online. Telehealth involves sharing personal medical information online. So, feeling certain that your details are private is important.
Below are some online resources that help you learn digital literacy skills:
- Learn Internet Skills — from National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Digital Health Literacy Curriculum — from NIH
Places to look for improving digital literacy skills:
- Public libraries
- Local government community and human services departments
- Non-profit groups that provide English as Second Language (ESL) classes
- Job training programs
- Public schools that provide support services for parents and guardians
- Community colleges and adult education centers
Disclaimer: The reference to named document reader software for telehealth is informational and not intended as an endorsement of that service.
Using a Patient Portal
Learn more about how patient portals and how to securely connect to a telehealth visit using a portal.