Getting the most from your telehealth appointments

Early in the COVID-19 crisis, the Australian Government extended Medicare rebates to allow more doctors to offer telehealth appointments to their patients.

You may have had a telehealth appointment in the last few months – a medical consultation done online using technology such as Zoom, Skype or FaceTime, or over the phone.

There are many benefits of telehealth appointments, including not having to leave home, but they don’t suit everyone and don’t suit every type of appointment. If you need a clinical examination, for example, you will probably need to go to the clinic or hospital.

BCNA believes that appointments where a person might be told about a new diagnosis or a change in treatment plan should also be done at a face-to-face appointment if possible.

Telehealth appointments can be used for:

  • results of scans and tests
  • advice on managing symptoms and side effects
  • follow-up care
  • repeat prescriptions
  • advice on diet and exercise
  • counselling
  • referral letters.

There are some simple tips that can help you prepare for your telehealth appointments so that you get the most out of them.

Get the technology right

Download and test the technology before the day of your appointment so any problems can be sorted out. You can use a smartphone, iPad, laptop or a computer that has a camera, microphone and speakers. You’ll need a reliable internet connection. On the day of your appointment, set up your device 5 or 10 minutes before your appointment so you are ready to start on time.

Find a space that is quiet and where you won’t be interrupted. Turn off the TV, radio and any other noisy appliances. Choose a spot where you are lit from the front – don’t have a bright window behind you. This will let your doctor see you more clearly.

Have a pen and paper so you can take notes.

Think about what you want to ask

You’ll get the most out of your appointment if you’re well prepared with information and questions.

If you’ve noticed any new symptoms or side effects, keep a record of when they started, how bad they are and how often you are noticing them, so you can let your doctor know.

Write down any questions you want to ask when you think of them (before your appointment). Put them in order with the most important ones at the top of the list in case you run out of time.

It can sometimes help to have a family member or friend to support you. They can be in the room with you or on the call from their own home. Let you doctor’s rooms know beforehand if you want to connect someone else in. If you have someone with you, ask them to take notes about what is discussed.

Can I ask for a face-to-face appointment instead?

You don’t have to accept a telehealth appointment. However, they often recommended to reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus.

If you do need or prefer a face-to-face appointment, be assured that hospitals, specialists and GPs have put procedures in place to ensure that you will be as safe as possible when visiting a hospital or clinic. Don’t forget to follow the social distancing and other safety rules that apply where you live.

Issue 87
Spring 2020