How to receive virtual medical treatment while under quarantine

You’ve been staying home or respecting the required six-feet distance from others when you have to venture out. But then you notice a few sneezes and a bit of a dry throat. Is it just seasonal allergies, or could it be more? With the ongoing public health crisis, a doctor’s office or emergency room is likely the last place you want to visit right now. So what’s your other option for getting your healthcare needs met and your symptoms checked? 

Virtual doctor visits are the solution. Also known as telehealth or telemedicine, virtual doctor appointments can save you money and time (since you don’t have to travel), plus help you refrain from coming into contact with others (or them coming into contact with you).

If you’ve never heard about or considered a virtual doctor visit before, setting up your first appointment can seem like a daunting task. But don’t stress. We’re going to break down exactly how to get your virtual consultation underway and answer the most common telehealth questions. 

The most frequently asked questions for setting up an online doctor appointment

How do I set up a virtual appointment?

Set up an online doctor appointment quickly and easily by following these steps: 

  • Make sure you have your insurance card. 
  • Contact your physician’s office either via their website (or over the phone). 
  • Sign-in (or create) an online account on your provider’s website. 
  • Answer medical information, including the reason for your visit and medical history, if necessary. 
  • Schedule your appointment day and time. You may be required to pay for your visit at time of scheduling or on the appointment date. 

How much does an online doctor visit cost? 

Virtual visits typically cost between $40 to $50, according to telehealth provider VSee. However, the cost of an online doctor visit can vary depending on your insurance coverage. Virtual visits tend to cost less than office visits because your healthcare provider is saving money by not seeing patients in-person. 

How are virtual visits saving money? Besides saving the patient transportation costs and in-office wait times, “telemedicine also saves masks, gowns and key supplies, which are in high demand for dealing with the pandemic,” according to The Dallas Morning News

Who are online doctor appointments available to? 

Online doctor appointments are available to virtually anyone with access to a connected device, such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop. Check with your healthcare or insurance provider about specific policies regarding your telecare benefits. 

What internet speed do you need to have a virtual doctor visit? 

Since most virtual doctor visits will require the use of a video-chat tool, at least 10 Mbps is the recommended internet download speed.

Not sure what speed you currently have? Find out right now by testing your speed below.

How can I prepare for my virtual visit and what can I expect regarding the timeline of treatment? 

It’s always a good idea to test your audio and visual software before your online visit, especially if this is your first time using video chat tools on your laptop or mobile device. 

Other ways to prepare include finding a private, quiet location to conduct your appointment. Also, make sure to jot down a list of symptoms and questions ahead of time, so that you don’t forget any important details during your visit (this goes for in-person visits too).

Can I have a virtual doctor visit if I’m not good with computers?

Yes. If you are not computer savvy, your physician’s office may be able to set up a consultation over FaceTime or other smartphone video chat platforms. If you are not comfortable using a smartphone or computer at all, a regular phone consultation is another option. 

Though processes may vary with your provider, watch this instructive video from Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon to get an idea of how to set up an account and login via a healthcare provider website.

How can the doctor check my vital signs during a telehealth appointment?

Although the doctor can’t physically take your blood pressure or check your heart rate, there are other ways of assessing your vitals during a virtual visit. For instance, your physician may lead you through any of these at-home methods for checking your heart rate

How does a telehealth visit affect my HIPAA rights?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, safeguards your health data, such as medical records and who can access them. Telehealth visits, whether they are online or over the phone, are no different. Any information discussed in a virtual doctor appointment is safeguarded to the same extent as an in-office visit. 

What type of medical situation is best suited for a virtual consultation?

According to UnitedHealthcare interview with Dr. Paul Fenyves, a primary care doctor at NY-based Weill Cornell, virtual doctor appointments could be “an excellent use for telemedicine as a first-line treat-or-triage for acute conditions. Simple matters could be handled immediately by telemedicine, while patients with more complicated conditions could be given office visits or referred to the emergency department.”

Essentially, if you are having symptoms that would normally prompt you to schedule an in-office visit, then a virtual visit could be a good alternative. If you are in need of immediate medical attention or having a medical emergency, then you should call 911.

Are there any smartphone apps I can use for a virtual doctor visit?

Yes. From pediatric to mental health apps, there are many highly-rated apps that you can access from your smartphone. Your healthcare network may have its own website and apps that they recommend.

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