After a lifetime of wasting hours in the waiting rooms of doctor’s offices, of sitting around in exam rooms expecting the small knock from the nurse or doctor and desperately hoping for more than a few minutes of your provider’s time, you are probably feeling a bit fed up with the current American system of healthcare. Hoping for a more convenient, more affordable and more enjoyable experience with a healthcare provider, you have finally made a telehealth appointment.
But what does that mean?
Here’s a basic rundown of what you can expect from your first appointment with an online doctor — and none of it will include wasting your time waiting around in a doctor’s office.
You wouldn’t walk into a doctor’s office without preparing yourself ahead of time, and the same should be true of any telehealth appointment you make. Virtual healthcare providers will be much better equipped to help you resolve your health concern if you are organized ahead of your appointment, able to connect properly with the telehealth platform and focused on communicating honestly with your provider.
The first step to engaging with telehealth is making an appointment. You can contact your healthcare provider of choice to find out if they utilize a particular telehealth platform, or you might contact your insurance provider to determine if they cover specific telemedicine services. When you select your platform, you will input information about yourself, most notably contact information so providers can reach out to you before, during or after your appointment. Finally, you should compile a list of questions and concerns for your provider, so you can be sure your appointment fulfills your needs and wants.
When you make your appointment, the telehealth solution of your choice should guide you through the process of logging in. Then, when it comes time to see your provider, you can enjoy a smooth experience. Some telehealth providers have bespoke apps, which can streamline appointments, but many operate through browsers, meaning you don’t need to download or install anything extra to see your provider.
When it comes time for your appointment, you should find a quiet, well-illuminated place in your home where you are less likely to be interrupted by housemates or undue noise. You should have a well-charged device you are familiar with and a strong internet connection. Generally, it is a good idea to log into your appointment about 10 minutes before it starts, so you can be certain that your technology is functioning appropriately and to let the providers know you are available and ready for care.
When your provider logs into the appointment, you should connect with them through video or audio chat. At this point, the appointment should proceed just as any regular doctor’s appointment; your provider will ask about any health concerns, and you will describe the issues that drove you to talk to a healthcare professional. Likely, the provider will inquire about medications you are taking or any health stats you might have available, like your temperature or blood pressure.
It is important to note that you aren’t necessarily guaranteed the same healthcare provider with every telehealth appointment, especially if you opted for a random available provider during your first visit. If you do want to continue seeing a particular online doctor, you should take note of their name and make an effort to schedule virtual visits with them in the future; otherwise, you will likely be assigned other random providers in the future.
Once you and your provider review your symptoms and concerns together, your provider will begin to make suggestions regarding diagnosis and treatment. It might be that your telehealth provider strongly recommends an in-person medical appointment, where another provider can run tests to generate a more accurate diagnosis. However, in most cases, a virtual doctor’s visit will result in the diagnosis of a minor health concern, like a muscle strain, and a prescription from a nearby pharmacy to help you manage your symptoms as your body recovers.
To end the appointment, your provider will ask if you have any additional questions or concerns, and they will likely advise following up with another appointment if your symptoms don’t abate within a certain amount of time. Then, they will end your session, and you can continue going about your day.
Telehealth isn’t something to be afraid of. In fact, for most Americans, telehealth appointments offer dozens of benefits over traditional doctor’s visits. The sooner you book your first online health appointment, the sooner you can seek medical relief for what ails you — and you probably won’t ever want to go back to a physical waiting room ever again.