Preparing For Your Virtual Doctor’s Appointment
May 14, 2020
The world has undergone drastic changes in the past few months because of COVID-19. Many of these changes have to do with how we relate to our new routines, many of which look far different than ever before. There are restrictions in place for many activities as commonplace as grocery shopping, picking up medications, and going to work due to widespread shelter-at-home and social distancing orders. Seeking medical advice for seemingly non-urgent matters like a toothache, a sprain, or an uncomfortable stomach bug can be tricky, but with virtual medical appointments gaining popularity over in-person ones, now is a good time to learn how to make the most out of your visit.
Many doctors are opting to speak to their patients and answer non-emergency medical questions and concerns via phone, email, or video chat in an effort to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory illness that is most commonly transmitted through person-to-person contact because of the respiratory droplets that infected individuals’ produce when they cough, sneeze, and speak. While limiting in-person medical appointments is a useful step towards decreasing unnecessary and potentially dangerous contact, not many people are familiar with how to communicate with their doctor in this way. To simplify the process, we have compiled some useful tips for our readers on navigating their virtual medical appointments below.
When To Seek Non-Urgent Care
First things first: if you are experiencing emergency symptoms, such as a sudden onset of chest pain or confusion, weakness in one side of your face or body, difficulty breathing, or an acute, severe headache, call 9-1-1. These symptoms can all be signs indicating a stroke, heart attack or another serious medical problem. But what if your complaint is not an emergency? Even if you believe you may be exhibiting COVID-19-related symptoms, so long as they are not life threatening you should call your provider before taking a trip to the hospital. In fact, Dr. Gary LeRoy, President of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), tells his patients to call him if they are experiencing symptoms that would typically make them to go to their local family physician, urgent care or hospital, like:
- A new source of pain,
- A minor injury (e.g. cuts, burns, sprains, and strains), and:
- High fever
Speaking With The Triage Nurse
After contacting your primary care physician, the first step will be to speak with a triage nurse who can determine whether or not the complaint is appropriate to treat via telemedicine (instead of in person). When you speak to the triage nurse it is important to summarize your concerns as clearly and succinctly as possible. A good rule of thumb is to start out with what your biggest complaint is and to communicate any changes you may be experiencing. For example, if you have a history of minor back pain but the medications or exercises that used to work in the past are no longer effective at managing your pain, tell the triage nurse. In some cases – and depending on a patient’s symptoms – the triage nurse may recommend going to the emergency room. If that happens, go right away. If the triage nurse determines that telemedicine is the appropriate course of action per your complaint(s), it is time to start putting information together for your virtual appointment.
Getting Ready For Your Virtual Appointment
It is always helpful to prepare before a doctor’s appointment, but under current circumstances this rings especially true. So, before your appointment it is advisable to come up with two or three major complaints or issues that you consider priorities to address. Here are some other useful tips to help you prepare for your virtual medical appointment:
- Make a list of your symptoms as well as any changes in symptoms you may be experiencing,
- If possible, take a photo of obvious symptoms you are experiencing (like a mole, rash, or any other skin issues),
- Before your appointment, find a quiet place where you will be able to speak without becoming distracted, and:
- Have as much doctor-recommended or prescribed medical equipment on hand as possible. This includes devices like home blood pressure monitors, glucometers (for measuring blood sugar levels), oral thermometers, scales, etc.
Telemedicine is not appropriate for everyone and under every circumstance. In some cases, a triage nurse or medical professional will request that the patient comes in to the office for an in-person visit. If your doctor or nurse recommends this, it is understandable to be nervous but remember: most facilities are taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between patients and employees, and medical staff are unlikely to recommend face-to-face appointments unless they feel it is absolutely necessary. To learn more about how you can protect yourself and others in case you do need to go to your doctor’s office, you can check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations on wearing a mask and other important safety tips here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html.
If you contracted COVID-19 as a result of a healthcare provider’s negligence and failure to implement effective control measures that prevent exposure to and limit the spread of the virus, you may be able to file a legal claim. For questions on filing a claim, contact a representative online now who can help.
Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Individuals Since 1947
Galfand Berger has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation with our legal team, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.