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How to Get Ready for Your First Virtual Visit

Excerpts from this blog were adapted from an article from AARP. For the full text, visit www.st-claire.org/AARPFirstVirtualVisit.

One of the challenging aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that social distancing and stay-at-home orders have made it more difficult to have a face-to-face meeting with your doctor.

For many physicians and patients, the remedy is virtual visits. With a virtual visit, you have the ability to remotely connect with a health care provider in real-time over video or telephone.

While virtual visits aren’t new — it's been deployed, for example, to connect rural patients with distant health care services or providers or to monitor ongoing conditions like diabetes — its use has spiked dramatically during the current crisis.

The protocol for arranging a virtual visit is simple and can be adapted to any individual’s specific needs. Here are some common steps and tips to prepare for a virtual visit:

  1. Make sure you are tech-ready. You will need a decent smartphone, tablet, or computer for a remote consultation, along with a reliable broadband or cellular connection to the internet, especially for video.
  2. Make an appointment. To request a virtual appointment with your St. Claire HealthCare provider, call 606.784.6641 or visit www.st-claire.org/appointment.
  3. Practice good security. Ask your medical provider about the steps taken to ensure your privacy. Choose a unique password that cannot be easily guessed and is not the same as you use elsewhere. “Approach it like how you protect your financial information,” says Mei Wa Kwong, executive director of the Center for Connected Health Policy. If possible, go someplace private in your home during the session.
  4. Be prepared to wait. You may be placed in a digital waiting room before the session with a doctor begins. (Bring your own magazine.)
  5. The doctor is in. When your appointment begins, the doctor will be seen on the screen (or heard on a phone) and will ask questions like in a typical examination.
  6. Video can help virtual exam. With video, a doctor can have you stick out your tongue, walk around, and so on. For example, while having a phone call with a mental health professional can be beneficial for a patient suffering from anxiety, using video may help the psychologist observe body language or other visual cues.
  7. You still may need to be seen in person. Only so much can be done remotely. Do you need blood drawn, an X-ray, biopsy or strep test? “We have a mandatory screening process in place and have created ‘sick’ and ‘well’ waiting areas in all of our locations to keep you healthy,” said Will Melahn, MD, SCH Chief Medical Officer.
  8. Get prescriptions filled. Based on the virtual session, your provider can call in a prescription or refill to your pharmacy and follow up as needed.

Virtual visits are a convenient alternative to face-to-face appointments for most individuals, however, technology can present to be an issue for others. For patients that don’t have access to the proper technology for virtual visits, curbside visits are also available. St. Claire HealthCare is offering curbside visits in the parking area next to the St. Claire Medical Pavilion.

To discuss the appointment option that works best for your care plan, talk with your doctor. St. Claire HealthCare patients can call 606.784.6641 or visit www.st-claire.org/appointment to request in-person, virtual, and curbside appointments.