Conduct a telehealth physical exam
Telehealth allows providers to deliver a wide range of services conveniently and efficiently. That includes physical exams, even though they are traditionally considered something that must be performed in person.
It is important to develop the right processes for virtual physical exams so that your patients can get the care they need.
On this page:
- Video: Conducting a Physical Exam — from California Telehealth Resource Center
- The Telehealth Ten: A Guide for a Patient-Assisted Virtual Physical Examination — from National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Telehealth Physical Exam Fact Sheet — from California Telehealth Resource Center
- Video: Telehealth Etiquette — from South Central Telehealth Resource Center
- The Virtual Shoulder and Knee Physical Examination — from NIH
- Physical Examination of the Spine Using Telemedicine: A Systematic Review — from NIH
Before the exam begins
Help patients and caregivers feel at ease and focused on their care by addressing any potential technical issues. Ask if they can see and hear you. If not, ask them to refresh their web browser.
Don't look down at the patient's picture during the exam. Instead, look directly into the lens, so it looks like you're making eye contact.
During the exam
As a provider, it is most important to pay attention to what you see and hear during a virtual physical exam. Ask patients thoughtful questions, encourage them to clearly describe how they're feeling and their health history. Pay special attention to their responses, tone of their voice, and body language. Engage with them by nodding and responding in small ways. Look for any unusual signs, such as skin discoloration or an unsteady gait.
Clearly explain to the patient everything you want them to do. Document any observations, what the patient did on their own (i.e. used personal equipment to take blood pressure), what the patient was not able to perform due to lack of at-home equipment, and any other information required for coding and billing purposes.
Telehealth may be used to conduct several types of physical exams.
Visit the California Telehealth Resource Center for training videos for each of these physical exams.
After the exam
Ask the patient if they have a pen and paper to write down any important takeaways from the exam. Let them know that an electronic message with instructions on when to follow up will be sent after you disconnect. Wait until the patient disconnects first before disconnecting yourself. This ensures they don't have any last-minute questions they forgot to ask during the exam.