Wylecia Wiggs Harris, Ph.D., CAE, CEO
American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so many things, including how we meet with the medical professionals who help us live our healthiest lives. With so many of us connecting virtually with others this spring, it is not surprising that we would want to connect with our doctors as well.
Virtual medical appointments, often referred to as telehealth or telemedicine, are more common than ever and offer some intriguing long-term benefits, including the opportunity for people in underserved areas to have greater access to healthcare. They also may make it easier for doctors to monitor patients with chronic conditions.
If you’re preparing for your first virtual appointment with a doctor, here are three things to know:
Apps you use everyday will work just fine
You don’t need special technology to virtually meet with a doctor. Some of the apps and services you are familiar with, like FaceTime and Google Hangouts, are acceptable. That is because during the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government has relaxed certain rules, and is allowing patients and doctors to meet over commonly used platforms. Even traditional audio calls are often allowed.
Consumer platforms like FaceTime have not traditionally been considered private and secure by government regulators, but, during these difficult times, they may be the best option for doctors and patients getting started with virtual visits.
Virtual appointments are different
I’m sure you’re not surprised there are some differences between virtual and in-person medical appointments. For example, portions of an in-person appointment can’t be replicated – if you’re hoping to have an annual physical virtually, it’s not possible for your doctor to tap on your knee for a reflex test!
With that being said …
Virtual appointments are familiar
In a virtual appointment, you should expect your provider to show the same concern for you they always have. Any information you share in the appointment will be documented in your medical record, just as it would be in an in-person appointment. And some insurance providers are covering virtual health appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I hope this information is helpful. These are difficult days but know your doctors and the entire healthcare community are striving to bring you excellent care.