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Helping patients prepare for their telehealth appointment

Patients who are new to virtual visits may need extra guidance about what to expect and how to prepare.

Depending on your patient and the type of appointment you will have with them, consider discussing the following topics with them before their first appointment — either verbally or in writing.

Basic expectations and instructions

  • That your patient should treat the telehealth appointment the same way they would an in-person appointment (dress appropriately, focus on the appointment, etc.)
  • Who needs to be available during the appointment — if the appointment is for a minor, make sure to mention the minor needs to be present and if the parent should or should not also be present
  • How your patient will connect for the appointment — that they’ll receive a phone call, an email with a link, or text message reminder
  • That your patient shouldn’t hesitate to ask you questions
  • What your patient should do if they can’t make the appointment, and what to do if either of you has trouble connecting before or during the appointment
  • What support underserved patients and those with disabilities might need in order to participate in the telehealth appointment, including conducting the visit over the phone

Protecting patients’ telehealth privacy

If an appointment will address sensitive topics, consider discussing the following with your patient:

  • Why and when having privacy is important
  • Will your patient be able to find a private place for the appointment? If not, provide tips on finding a private location in their home, car, or friend’s house
  • How to use other communication options like email, text, or your telehealth platform’s chat feature — especially if there might be issues with personal safety
  • If the patient will have an interpreter or caregiver present, discuss what they feel comfortable permitting the other person to hear. Determine if they need to fill out a release of information.

Telehealth appointment setup

It’s helpful to provide guidance to your patient on how to get set up for their appointment.

  • Choose a spot with plenty of light — avoid sitting with back towards a window since this will make it harder to see your patient’s face
  • Make sure the camera is steady, at eye-level, and will show their head and shoulders in view
  • Wear loose clothing if you’ll need your patient to show you something on their skin or a specific part of their body
  • Find a quiet place or reduce background noise and other distractions
  • Get their computer or device ready by closing other applications so they don’t slow down the internet connection or get distracted
  • For video appointments, connect 15 minutes early to allow time for last-minute troubleshooting
  • Describe what to expect when they connect early (virtual waiting room, hold music)

Template for a patient handout: Patient Instructions for a Successful Telehealth Visit  (PDF) — from Caravan Health.

Medical information needed

Depending on the nature of the appointment, here are some things you may want to request that the patient prepare beforehand.

  • List of their current medications or gather the actual bottles
  • Medical history
  • Symptoms, questions, concerns they want to discuss
  • Pharmacy contact information
  • Measurements like weight and temperature
  • Flashlight or smartphone light if needed for looking in the patient’s throat