by Edward C. Baig, AARP, April 15, 2020

One of the challenging aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that social distancing and stay-at-home orders have made it more difficult to have a face-to-face meeting with your doctor.

For many physicians and patients, the remedy is telemedicine: the ability to remotely connect with a health care provider in real time, often over video, and sometimes via telephone, email, app or online patient portal.

Here are some common steps and tips to prepare for such a virtual visit.

  1. Make sure you are tech-ready. You will need a smartphone, tablet or PC for a remote consultation, along with a reliable broadband or cellular connection to the internet.
  2. Check your insurance. Not every private insurer will cover telemedicine sessions. Consult your provider to find out what’s covered under your plan.
  3. Make an appointment. Call your doctor’s office or visit the practice’s patient portal to make a virtual appointment.
  4. Describe your symptoms. Depending on the app, you may be asked to fill in or check off symptoms.
  5. Practice good security. Ask your medical provider about the steps taken to ensure your privacy. 
  6. Be prepared to wait. You may be placed in a digital waiting room before the session with a doctor begins. (Bring your own magazine.)
  7. The doctor is in. When your appointment begins, the doctor will be seen on the screen (or heard on a phone) and will ask questions like in a typical examination.
  8. Video can help virtual exam. With video a doctor can have you stick out your tongue, walk around and so on.
  9. You still may need to be seen in person. Only so much can be done remotely, so an in-person appointment may need to be scheduled.