Since COVID-19, healthcare delivery has changed, and many providers now use telehealth.
Typically, telehealth is categorized into three groups:
- Video telehealth happens real time with you and your health care provider or other health care professional. This is through video-conferencing or other real-time telehealth technology.
- Store-and-forward (S&F) telehealth involves the transmission of medical or health information, such as an x-ray, lab results, or prescriptions, from one provider to another for a consultation or interpretation.
- Home monitoring involves the use of telehealth to remotely monitor health status. Data (e.g., weight, blood pressure, glucose level) are captured via medical devices in the patient’s home and then transmitted to a provider via the Internet.
As a healthcare professional, I always recommended that clients/patients make a list before going to their healthcare appointment. Why? Listing your healthcare concerns helps you to use your appointment time most effectively.
Sometimes it helps to think the way health care providers think. Many now follow the Age-Friendly Health Systems 4Ms Framework, which allows them to address things they want to address without sounding like they are checking off boxes:
- What Matters—Know and align care with each older adult’s specific health outcome goals and care preferences including, but not limited to, end-of-life care, and across settings of care.
- Medications—If medications are necessary, use age-friendly medications that do not interfere with What Matters, Mentation or Mobility.
- Mentation—Prevent, identify, treat, and manage depression, dementia, and delirium across settings of care.
- Mobility—Ensure that older adults move safely every day to maintain function and do What Matters.
Think about your own health and how you might respond to each of the 4Ms above. Write your responses down and have them available for your tele-health appointment. Update the list before any appointment with your health care provider.
Following is a checklist you can use before and during your telehealth appointment. A PDF copy of this checklist is available online.
- Check insurance coverage—there could be a copay. Have your insurance/bank card/credit card available.
- Have the name and phone number for your pharmacy handy.
- Make a list of your symptoms and concerns. Be specific. Ask yourself, what do you want from the visit?
- List all medications you take (prescription and non-prescription, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, eye drops, etc.).
- Practice what you want to say.
- Check technology requirements. If you are using video telehealth and don’t have experience using video-conferencing technology on a computer, tablet, or smart phone, ask for help. If you have no one to help at home, contact your provider’s office well in advance to ask for clear instructions.
- Limit background noise, including TVs, radios, and other devices but also people and pets.
- Allow yourself 10–15 minutes before the telehealth call to collect your thoughts.
- For privacy, consider using headphones during the call.
- Summarize your condition, list all symptoms, and explain your concerns.
- Share any changes in your medical history and any major life changes.
- Provide any vital signs that you can, such as blood pressure, pulse and/or temperature.
- After your doctor tells you something, repeat it back in your own words.
- Take notes and ask questions such as:
- What are the risks/benefits of treatment?
- Are there other ways to treat this?
- Will insurance pay?
- Will I need medication?
- Agree on the treatment plan and any additional tests/medications.
- Ask your doctor for resources and about follow-up visits.
As with any healthcare provider visit, it is ideal if you can have a friend or family member by your side. That person can be responsible for taking notes so that you can focus fully on your conversation with your healthcare provider.
End of visit
- Do I know the diagnosis?
- Will I need any additional medical treatment or follow-up tests?
- Do I need a medication change or a new prescription?
- What action(s) can I take to get better?
- What action(s) do I take if the symptoms continue?
- How can I access the information/treatment plan from today’s appointment?
Information on Face Coverings for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Blind Community Members (Public Health—Seattle & King County) includes special tips on preparing for a health care appointment if you cannot hear or see.
In addition, the Northwest ADA Center offers a wealth of information about healthcare access for individuals with disabilities (click here).
Two good articles about preparing for a telehealth visit were provided by Madge Kaplan at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), an organization that continuously works to improve the health of individuals and populations:
- Getting the Care You Need via Telemedicine (NCOA)
- Reimagining the Patient Experience During the Covid-19 Pandemic (New England Journal of Medicine)
Contributor Mary Pat O’Leary, RN, BSN is a planner at Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County.