Telemedicine a wave of the future: What you need to know

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Like everyone else, you're probably sick of hearing that these are "unprecedented times" and we need to get use to a "new normal," yet both of these statements are true. One area we will see a big change is in healthcare.

Many seniors, especially those with complex medical conditions, went from having several physician appointments a month to having none. It was just too dangerous for them to go out, and non-urgent appointments and procedures were canceled.

Many doctors were thrown into telemedicine which, although not necessarily a new concept, was new to many of them. Since HIPAA compliance laws have been relaxed indefinitely during the pandemic, many offices are using Zoom and FaceTime to do virtual visits with their patients.

Since it will be quite a while before there is an immunization for the virus, some telemedicine could be our "new normal."

Telehealth appointments are easier in some ways - no commute to the office and being able to wait in your own home rather than a waiting room - but it still requires some preparation.

Here's a list of some things to do to prepare for your telehealth appointment:

1. Make sure that telehealth is covered by your insurance. Medicare is currently covering telehealth visits at the same rate as an in-person visit under the CARES Act. Some commercial insurance might or might not be, so it's always best to check.

2. Find out from your provider what platform they will use for your virtual visit and make sure you have the app downloaded, if necessary. If using a laptop, make sure you have a webcam on your laptop.

3. Have your insurance information handy in case you're asked for it.

4. Have a notebook handy and write down your questions and concerns ahead of time. Make sure you include things like what makes it better or worse? What over-the-counter medications have you used? How long have you had it?

5. Have a list of all your medications names, dosages and how often you take it. Make sure you include nonprescription medications and supplements.

6. Be sure to mention any relevant medical history; don't assume your doctor has read your chart ahead of time or remembers all of your medical history.

7. Have the name and address of your pharmacy ready in case prescriptions need to be sent electronically.

8. If using a platform like Zoom, make sure you attempt to log in a few minutes before your scheduled appointment as the log-in process can take a few minutes.

It's always a good idea to take notes during the appointment. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor to speak up or repeat himself if you didn't hear something.

If you're afraid that you're going to miss something, you can always have a family member or a nurse advocate on the video call with you at your house or on their computer at their home or office.

Karen Balerna, RN, BSN, BCPA is a board-certified patient advocate and owner of Nurse Advocate Partners, serving Beaufort County. KBalerna@NurseAdvocatePartners.com or NurseAdvocatePartners.com

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