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  • Anjana Kundu, MD

Telemedicine Visits 101: Making the most of your telemedicine visits.

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

The COVID19 pandemic has called everything we knew as normal into question and the way we receive healthcare is no exception. The challenges of social distancing, restricted access to healthcare services for non-urgent issues like chronic pain, limited access to gyms, pools, physical or occupational therapy have highlighted a need for more innovative ways of ensuring continuity of pain management services and for more effective self-management strategies for pain control.

Technology has played a major role during this time in overcoming some of the hurdles, for continuity of healthcare services. Taking a cue, we've been offering virtual support to our patients/families in various ways. In a Facebook live, I discussed some effective self management strategies and also created this FREE self-care toolkit.

Telemedicine, despite being around for 4 decades, and born out of necessity for providing healthcare services to remote communities with limited resources, is only now taking a center stage. Telemedicine has picked up some of the slack placed upon continuity of care for chronic pain patients due to clinic closures. Your healthcare professionals (HCP) are still here to provide the best care possible for your family at the present time via telemedicine, minimizing your risks of exposure COVID19.

Despite some challenges like limited physical examination or tech challenges, telemedicine is not something to be afraid of! Moreover, it does offer some benefits - no need for travel, no need to take time off from work/school, safety during current times, and continuity of care. So this may be part of the new normal, going forward.

Personally, I’ve been involved with telemedicine for a long time, as co-investigator for multiple research & training grants since 2006. Our work has provided remote care, education and training for Native American tribes in Washington State and Alaska.

Partnering with your HCP in various ways is crucial for the most effective visit and best outcomes. So, compiled below is a list of the best ways for you to make the most of your telemedicine visits.

Before the visit:

  1. Ensure ability for video conferencing - information via video is most important during this time of limited contact and ability for your physician to “lay eyes” or do physical examinations for accurate information.

  2. Find the most efficient room in your house - in order to make the most of your visit, ensure the room has good connectivity, as well as room for movement/activity for physical examination. It is crucial that your doctor/HCP can clearly see your child in order to get the best examination. Ask for any clarifications if you do not understand. Another key factor to consider are distractions. Find a room where there are minimal distractions and instruct fellow family members to not come in during the allotted time with your HCP. Keep pets from the room as well.

  3. Make a checklist of things you need to ask and tell your physician - when you have limited time for visit, you want to make the most of it. Preplan your questions and concerns that may have arisen about your child's health since your last visit. Have the list nearby when you get to your conference.

  4. Send ahead - Make sure to send all the necessary information (or have them sent from your referring doctor) to your doctor ahead of time, if available. If you want your doctor to see any videos, photos etc. of your child’s condition or pain episodes etc., send those ahead of time as well.

  5. Do not wait till the last minute - create a log-in, download the app, and become familiar with it before your visit. Do a trial run ahead of time to get familiar with the technology with a family member or friend. This will allow you to make the most of the visit with your child’s doctor and focus on the things that are most important for their care rather than fumbling with technology and being distracted trying to figure it out then.

During the visit:

  1. Be on time - you have limited time with your HCP, so make sure to not waste any of that.

  2. Keep the number of people in the room/visit to minimum.

  3. Dress properly - You or your child wouldn’t step outside the home or go to a clinic without proper clothes, so this should be no different. Remember, it’s still a professional healthcare visit. It’s just happening from the comfort and safety of your home.

  4. Proper Lighting - angle yourself to face a window. If the window is behind you, you may be back lit and it will not allow your physician to see your child’s face and limit their examination. You can also have a light/lamp directed at your/your child’s face.

  5. Keep all the information handy - so you don’t need to run out/leave the visit and go in search of any information.

  6. Ask your questions - Have your checklist discussed earlier handy and make sure your questions are answered. Ask for clarification if needed. Make sure to ask about the next steps as well. Ideally your HCP should tell you what the next steps are, but in case they don’t, make sure to ask.

  7. Take notes as necessary - You can ask if your HCP will give you a visit summary (most do), but it’s always good to take some notes so that you can also focus on things that YOU feel are important to you and your child.

  8. Follow Up Visit - Ask about and schedule a follow up visit.

  9. Contact between the visits - Ask about how you can get in touch with your child’s doctor’s office if you have any questions or need any help in between visits.

  10. End your visit - Make sure your visit has ended and your video/audio is disconnected.

I hope these tips help you make the most of your telemedicine visit. Here’s to you and to your child’s functional, pain free and improved health!

What other tips or comments do you have to for a successful telemedicine visit? Please share them with our community in the comments below.

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