Telehealth, once considered a time-saving convenience for some or a necessity for others lacking transportation or local medical services, has become today’s new normal and encouraged by medical professionals for less-than-urgent care.
In a COVID-19 world, avoiding hospital visits not only adheres to self-quarantine and social distancing guidelines, but also lightens hospital and physician loads to focus on patients with the most acute sickness and symptoms.
What’s more, skipping time in a waiting room full of sick or possibly sick people is always a good idea.
Governor Gavin Newsom relaxed restrictions on telehealth with an executive order April 3 to “expand protections to medical providers as they amplify the use of video chats and similar applications to provide routine and non-emergency medical appointments in an effort to minimize patient exposure to COVID-19.”
“This order provides flexibility to our medical and health providers so that they are able to provide continuity of health services to people across the state, and will allow providers to assess a greater number of patients while limiting the risk of exposure and infection of other persons from in-person consultations,” Newsom said in a news release.
Rashes, symptoms related to allergies or asthma, earaches, cuts, and cysts are examples of issues ideally addressed through telehealth. Many health providers have multiple options for telehealth: videoconferencing, online chat with photo uploading, or over the phone.
Before a telehealth appointment, keep these recommendations in mind for a successful outcome:
- Be prepared to provide a detailed description of your symptoms, what types of pain you have been experiencing, and for how long.
- Have a list of questions ready to avoid forgetting something critical during the consultation.
- Know precisely what medicines you have been taking leading up to the visit, whether those are prescription medications or over-the-counter, and the amounts taken and frequency associated with each medicine.
- Have an accurate record of your medical history.
- Know your primary physician’s name and contact information (if not consulting them).
- Have any pertinent insurance information at hand.
- Gather medical equipment such as a thermometer, asthma inhaler, or glucose monitor. If you use apps to track conditions, have quick access to that data.
- Find a quiet, private place for the appointment: no children, pets, or other distractions.
- From a technology standpoint, be sure your phone or laptop is charged, familiarize yourself with any software you will use during the appointment before the appointment, be sure to have a reliable internet or phone connection, and make sure all submitted photos are well lit (no flash) and in focus.
While telehealth can be a convenient and useful tool in some cases, anyone experiencing severe symptoms associated with COVID-19 should go to a local emergency room or call 911.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) provides these guidelines for COVID-19: “If you have coronavirus symptoms and think you need testing, contact your healthcare provider. Local health departments and healthcare providers determine who needs testing and hospitalization on a case-by-case basis.
Many people are able to recover from COVID-19 at home.
Seek treatment by calling your doctor for a phone evaluation if:
- You have difficulty breathing.
- You feel like symptoms (such as fever and cough) are getting worse rapidly.
- You are unable to care for symptoms at home.”
CDPH further advises that if you need to go to the hospital, call ahead so it can prepare for your arrival, and if you call 911, inform the operator that you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms so that the ambulance provider can prepare to treat you safely.
To verify the license status of a medical professional licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs, visit https://search.dca.gov.