Studies show that virtual medical visits can address a wide range of medical concerns just as effectively as in-clinic appointments. For many Canadians, virtual medicine is also much more convenient — think no travel time, waiting rooms, or time off from work required – especially in a time when we are all trying to maintain physical distancing.
Even if you prefer to see your primary care doctor in person, there’s a good chance you will be offered a virtual medical visit in lieu of a physical one in the near future, as clinics and physicians’ offices work to reduce contact between patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virtual medical appointments may feel strange or even daunting at first, but the key to success is being prepared. Here’s our guide to making the most out of your on-screen medical visit:
1. Make sure you have the right tools. You will need:
- A webcam-enabled computer, smartphone or tablet with good quality speakers, a microphone and a supported web browser
- A good internet (wi-fi) connection or a phone data plan
- An email account so your doctor can email you a link to join the appointment
- A pen and paper to take notes
- A quiet indoor space with little distraction and good lighting
- A list of your current medications, if applicable (or better yet, the actual medications)
2. Do a little legwork. Be sure to:
- Complete and submit any paperwork as instructed by your doctor’s office, preferably a day in advance. Your information is updated on your electronic health record, ensuring that your doctor has current and accurate information prior to your visit.
- Take a moment to jot down any questions you have or symptoms you want to discuss with your doctor.
- Test your device’s audio, camera and internet connection about 15 minutes before the call to make sure everything is in good working order. (Tip: The confirmation email from your provider may have a “Test Your Connection” link to help you do this.)
- Click on the link in the email provided by your doctor’s office about five minutes before your call. You may see a window pop up in your web browser that asks for permission to share your camera. Be sure to accept / allow or your doctor won’t be able to see you.
- Consider asking a partner, caregiver or trusted friend or family member to join you if they are living within your household. Depending on the type of visit, it may be helpful to have someone sit in to take notes or raise concerns if you forget something. If the individual can’t be in the same location as you because they don’t live in the same household, share the link and they can log in from any computer or mobile device.
3. Keep these factors in mind:
If you are not seeing your regular doctor, you may need to discuss your pre-existing history. Don’t be concerned if you don’t see the health care provider on your screen when you “arrive” for your appointment. Just as in the clinic, you may have to wait a few minutes while the provider is with another patient. In some cases, you may even see an administrator or assistant before your doctor arrives.
Many Canadian family physicians who previously did not offer virtual care as part of their practices are seeing patients virtually or consulting them by phone during the COVID-19 outbreak. Contact your primary care provider for updates, and click here for the Canadian Medical Association’s guidelines for seeking care during the coronavirus pandemic.
For ongoing remote healthcare access, consider a virtual care platform that provides on-demand care while allowing you to build a relationship with a trusted medical provider.