While telehealth has been around for years, a majority of people hadn’t experienced it until the novel coronavirus spread through the United States, forcing medical offices and hospitals to limit in-person care. So what is telehealth, or telemedicine, anyway? Simply put, telehealth is the use of digital information and communication technologies, to get health services remotely. This can be done via phone or computer and can be used for a wide array of healthcare services.
1. What do I need to do to have a telehealth visit?
In scheduling your telehealth appointment, you’ll want to ask whether or not the appointment will be done via phone or computer. If done by phone, a telephone or cell phone is all you need. If done by computer, you will need a camera or a smartphone with an integrated camera and microphone. You’ll also need internet connection.
2. What if I’m not good with technology?
Patients of all ages can use telehealth! Oftentimes, telehealth visits are simple and straightforward. If you are unsure how to proceed with the appointment, make sure to call your doctor’s office in advance to ask about support.
3. How will my doctor treat my colorectal cancer virtually?
Telehealth appointments can cover a wide array of appointment types. While you cannot get your chemo infusion or surgery virtually, many types of appointments can be done well using telehealth. For example, consultations prior to colonoscopy, post-op check-ins, lab result reviews, genetic counselor discussions, and more.
4. Are these types of visits useful if the doctor can’t even see me in person?
If you are a cancer patient, it’s likely that you’ve already established care with your treatment team – therefore they are up to date on your medical history. With this type of information, your doctors will have a more complete picture of your overall health and will be able to adequately assist you. However, when scheduling your appointment, make sure to check with your care team if an in-person visit would be preferred. While telehealth is incredibly useful for many types of appointments, in-person appointments may still be preferred depending on the reason for the appointment. Ask your doctor and make sure to check in about the safety measures in place for any in-person visits.
5. Can I get prescriptions refilled?
Yes. It is likely that you’ll be able to get prescription refills through your telehealth appointments.
6. Will my insurance cover this?
Most big insurance companies offer some sort of coverage for telehealth visits. It’s always best to call your insurance provider first to make sure your appointments are covered, as well as the amount covered, so you aren’t caught off guard with an unexpected bill.
7. How should I prepare for my telehealth visit?
Just like in-person appointments, make sure you have a caregiver or loved one with you for your appointment. Have a list of questions, side effects, concerns, and any other talking points. If connecting via computer, check your camera, microphone, and internet before the visit to make sure you have a good connection.
Make a list of questions you want to ask that you can have in front of you. Actually take the time to test the system they want you to use beforehand and don’t assume you know it because it’s zoom and you use it all the time. Get on at least 15 mins early to make sure you aren’t having any internet issues, etc.
– Anna Rappaport, Fight CRC Research Advocate
While telehealth is a new method of care, don’t be nervous to try it out. Being able to access your doctors and members of your health care team from home is part of the current, and future delivery of healthcare.