Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

For patients

Getting help with access

Even if you might like to try telehealth, you may have trouble accessing online services.

Illustration of an open laptop computer with a speech balloon showing the plus symbol for medical assistance.

Did you know?

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) helps many low income households pay for broadband (internet) service and purchase internet connected devices like a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from certain participating providers.

Visit GetInternet.gov to see if you qualify or to apply online.

I don’t have internet access

Patients can maximize cost savings on internet bills. Learn more by visiting GetInternet.gov. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and Lifeline exit disclaimer icon  are federal government programs that help eligible households pay for internet services and internet connected devices. Eligible families who pair their benefit with one of the partnered internet providers can receive high-speed internet at no cost.

Who is eligible?

Eligibility for ACP and Lifeline exit disclaimer icon  programs is based on income or meeting other criteria. Individuals and families are automatically eligible if they belong to programs such as:

  • SNAP
  • Medicaid
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Veterans Pension or Survivor Benefits
  • Tribal-specific assistance programs
  • Other

How to apply?

For the Affordable Connectivity Program, eligible households can enroll through a participating broadband provider or using an online or mail in application. To apply for Lifeline, households can apply online, by mail, or through a phone or internet company.

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.

Video meetings

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.

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 exit disclaimer icon  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:

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.

Last updated: August 10, 2022

Sign up for email updates

Get updates on telehealth
delivered to your inbox.