Preparing for a virtual visit
Most telehealth visits will include video. All you will need for this is a smartphone or a device with an internet connection and audio-video capabilities, like a tablet or computer.
What Do You Need To Use Telehealth (Video)
Getting comfortable with telehealth
It might be hard to imagine what a virtual visit or e-visit will be like, especially if you have never had a health care visit that was not in person.
A video visit is the closest telehealth option to an in-person visit.
There are many reasons why telehealth may be a great option. You may live far away from doctors or you may have difficulty traveling for an in-person appointment. You may be responsible for children or elderly family members. You may feel too sick to leave home or you may need to stay a safe distance away from others.
There are many types of health care that can be offered through telehealth, including:
- Primary care
- Urgent care
- Diabetes care and management
- Prenatal care
- Mental health care
- Genetic counseling
Whatever your reason for choosing telehealth, the goal is to make your virtual visit feel like an in-person visit as much as possible.
Tip: Watch this video to learn more about what to expect from a telehealth visit .
Preparing for your virtual visit
Use these tips to help your virtual health visit run smoothly, especially if you are using video to talk with a doctor.
Write it down. Just like an in-person visit, you will want to write down important information to make the best use of your time with the doctor.
- Make a list of your current medications (or gather the actual bottles).
- Write down any symptoms, questions, or concerns you want to discuss during the appointment so you do not forget them.
- If your doctor has requested information like your temperature or weight have this information ready.
- Keep paper nearby to take notes about what your doctor says during the e-visit.
Request any assistive technology or programs you may need to participate. Needing assistance, whether it’s a screen reader, closed captioning, or another method, will allow you to communicate confidently.
- If English is not your first language, you can also request a native speaker of your language if there is someone available. Or you can let your doctor’s office know that a trusted family member or friend will be translating for you.
Be truthful on your medical forms and answering questions. Your doctor needs to know the truth to be able to treat you properly. If you are concerned about your privacy, let your provider know ahead of time or even at the beginning of the appointment. That includes topics such as:
- Drug use
- Domestic violence
- Past surgeries
- Hormone use
- Medications and supplements
- Check your email for instructions. Be sure to review any email, texts, or other communication from your doctor’s office. The office may send you details about your upcoming appointment and how to log on or use their technology.
- Reduce background noise. This can be tricky when there are a lot of people in the house! Try to find a quiet activity for the kids in a separate room and ask other adults to speak quietly, if you can.
- Close other applications. Some applications on your phone, tablet, or computer will slow down your internet connection. Closing them will also cut down on distractions.
Did you know?
Some health care providers offer on demand services, which means you can speak to a doctor or nurse without scheduling an appointment. Talk to your doctor to learn more.
Tip: Are you new to telehealth? Get tips and information on the basics of telehealth.
Getting ready for your video appointment
- Choose a spot with plenty of light. If you are using the camera on your phone, you can try using the flash for extra light.
- Make sure the camera is steady. Set your computer or laptop on a flat service, or prop up your phone or tablet on a desk or table.
- Get comfortable. Wear something that is easy to move in case your doctor asks you to show part of your skin or another area of your body.
- Stay focused on your appointment: Make your virtual visit a priority. Try to avoid eating or drinking during your appointment. And avoid distractions such as driving or riding in a car, or running errands.
Telehealth tips for families of children and youth with special health care needs (PDF) – from Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
Feeling empowered with telehealth
Feeling empowered means that you have the confidence, the ability, and the opportunity to advocate for your health during appointments, either in-person or over telehealth.
Talking to a doctor about your medical concerns, your history, and your symptoms may feel overwhelming. Some people may feel embarrassed. Others may be unsure what questions to ask. The first step to feeling empowered is to remember the following:
- The right doctor for you will take your concerns seriously
- The right doctor for you has your best interests in mind
- You have the right to absolute privacy in what you choose to discuss with your doctor during a telehealth or in-person appointment
Telehealth has many benefits that can help you feel more confident and in control, including:
- Logging on to the appointment from the comfort of your own home, or even your office or car
- Decreased stress from less travel or less need for child care
- More control over your environment, such as a comfortable temperature and not having to change into medical gowns
- The ability to select a doctor who makes you feel comfortable, even if they aren’t in your local area
Empowerment and health equity
Empowerment in telehealth and health equity are important ideals in getting you the quality health care you deserve. Health equity in telehealth is the opportunity for everyone to receive the health care they need and deserve, regardless of social or economic status.
Feeling empowered when it comes to your health care will help you achieve health equity for yourself, your family, and others in your community.
Here are a few ways you can be empowered while using telehealth and work toward health equity:
Choose a telehealth provider that best fits your needs. This could be a provider who is welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ+ patients. They could be a doctor of color who understands the needs of the Black and Latinx community. You could also choose a provider who speaks your native language or ask for an interpreter if you think speaking English could be a barrier to care.
Be honest with your healthcare provider if you are uninsured or underinsured. Your provider will likely know of programs or clinics where you can get low-cost or free services. This could include mobile vaccination clinics or free wellness checks.
Give feedback to help your provider work toward more health equity in telehealth. This could be through virtual discussions about community-specific topics or suggestions for online training.
Feel empowered during your appointment
This is your time with your doctor. You should not be made to feel rushed or unheard. Here’s a few ways you can feel empowered during the appointment.
Ask all the questions you need. And make sure you feel comfortable with the answers you get. If the doctor tells you something you don’t fully understand, ask them to further explain.
Get information about how telehealth works, if you need. Whether it’s your first telehealth appointment or you are seeing a new doctor, feel free to ask what to expect.
Tell them you are uncomfortable talking about a specific topic. That can help the doctor take the lead and also reassure you that they are there to help.
Tell them your pronouns and the name you prefer they use. It is your right to be recognized and treated well by your providers.
After your appointment
Your telehealth care doesn’t stop when you log off from your appointment. Continue participating with these tips:
Call the office or email your doctor through a patient portal. Don’t worry if you forgot to ask a question, think of something later, or need help understanding your care. Your provider will be happy to get you the information you need.
Make sure your doctor’s office follows up as promised. Your provider may want to refer you to another physician, send you for lab work or imaging, or call in prescriptions to the pharmacy. If you haven’t heard back, call your doctor or email through a patient portal to check in.
Give feedback and suggestions. If there was something you liked about your appointment, your provider’s care, or their telehealth program, make sure to let them know. Conversely, feel confident in making suggestions if you feel certain parts of your telehealth experience could be improved. Feedback is the best way for providers to know how they can best serve their patients.
Paying for your telehealth visit
Paying for your telehealth appointment varies depending on your insurance status and insurance coverage. Telehealth insurance varies from state to state and continues to expand across the country. Medicare covers the cost of virtual visits for appointments related to COVID-19. Many private insurance companies cover telehealth appointments with the same benefits as in-person visits.
Check with your insurance company to find out whether you are covered for a virtual visit and how much it will cost. Even if a virtual visit costs you a bit more, it could still save you money if you consider travel costs, lost wages, and childcare costs for in-person visits.
Troubleshooting telehealth technology
Here are common troubleshooting tips you can use if you are having trouble logging in to your telehealth appointment or if you have technology issues during the appointment itself.
- Restart your computer or device.
- Make sure the device is plugged in and charged.
- Check that the internet connection is working and is strong enough to work with the telehealth platform.
- Close all other applications.
- Update your internet browser (if the telehealth platform is web-based).
- Try connecting with a different device.
- Check your email or call your doctor’s office to reach someone who can provide help.