How to get the most from your telehealth appointments

Joseph BergDr. Joseph Berg is a family medicine physician at the Upland Hills Health Mount Horeb clinic. As a Mount Horeb resident, Dr. Berg enjoys making a difference for others in his community. His focus is to treat patients as people and neighbors, not numbers or data, and he enjoys caring for newborn, adolescent, adult, and geriatric patients.

Telehealth. That word may make you feel anxious or relieved. The fact is, telehealth is here and you may need to use it during these unprecedented times. Upland Hills Health offers telehealth services in our primary and specialty clinics, for dietitian consults and even for some physical, occupational and speech therapy appointments.

What exactly is telehealth? You may have heard it called telemedicine, or you might be familiar with it as “Zoom visits.” Telehealth visits are a secure video call experience where you see your provider on your computer screen or smartphone, and you can talk back and forth.

The heart of a telehealth visit is the video call technology, so to get the most out of your telehealth experience, you will need to:

  1. Make sure you have the right equipment,
  2. test it out, and then
  3. prepare for your visit.

First, make sure you have a computer (desktop PC or laptop) with a camera and microphone. A smart phone, or a tablet will work also. Be sure the camera and microphone are working on your device. You and your provider must be able to see and hear each other.

Upland Hills Health uses Zoom for telehealth visits. Zoom is a free-to-use secure video conferencing app universally supported across computers, smart phones and tablets. It will work as an app on your phone or within your favorite web browser. It works everywhere! If you haven’t already used Zoom, download the free application from your app store or from the internet onto your PC or laptop. Once you have it installed, register for a free account.

Make sure you have a secure internet connection. Video calls look and sound best when you have a fast and strong internet connection. Make sure you have a broadband connection (cable or DSL) and that you are hardwired into your modem/router or close to the Wi-Fi hotspot in your home. The farther away you are, the weaker the connection and slower the speed.

Try it out! Make a test call. Zoom makes it easy. Just click on the “new meeting” button in the app to create your own meeting. Once you are in, click on the “participants” button then the “invite” button. You can then send a text message or email inviting someone to the meeting. Talk to a loved one or friend using Zoom. That way, you will be familiar with Zoom and more comfortable with a telehealth appointment.

Finally, prepare for your visit. As with any doctor visit, write down questions, have a complete list of your medications, and be sure to “arrive” on time. If you are able, take your pulse, measure your blood pressure and check your weight. The more information you can give your doctor the better.

Pick a spot near your Wi-Fi router that is quiet and free of distractions (I have seen many a cat during my telehealth visits and it makes me sneeze, even through video conference). A few minutes before the visit start time, click on the link sent to your email or MyChart and the Zoom meeting should open automatically! You’ll be greeted by a nurse, and your provider will join the call. From there your appointment will be very similar to an in-person visit.

I hope this quick guide takes some anxiety away. Telehealth can be just as valuable as an in-person visit. Just be sure to have the right equipment, the right software, and the right environment. “See” you soon.

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Most people are surprised to learn that Upland Hills Health works with a wide range of health plan and PPOs. We are an independent, nonprofit healthcare organization, always pursuing additional insurance carriers that service our communities.

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