The new normal in the wake of Covid-19 for most of us will be more online health consultations (telemedicine consultations).
So, here are a few tips to ensure that your next online consultation is as effective as a Doctor's visit.
Or you can watch my video on the same topic - here:
When did We Start Online Health Consulting?
Telemedicine has been around for a long time - in the modern form as far back as 1960.
Currently, several apps and other platforms help you connect to a doctor online or remotely for advice on medical problems.
How Does Online Health Consultation Work?
Online consultations can take different formats.
Essentially, it means that rather than physical doctor visits; and with computer or smartphone - you are able to have a consultation via phone or video link.
So, of course, this can have a lot of advantages including maintaining physical distance (which is why online consultations have dramatically increased since January this year).
And online consultations allow assessment and treatment - and identify cases where a person does require more than online assessment.
Tips to Ensure your Online Health Consultation runs Smoothly
In some cases, the consultation is with your usual service provider who has now introduced remote or virtual consultations.
However, many times it maybe with a new platform and a paid service.
Whichever the case, how can you help make sure all your needs are covered during the consultation?
- First - be aware of what services the particular platform you are using can provide.
For example, some are limited by regulators from issuing controlled medication online - especially if they are NOT your regular provider.
Even more important - they are NOT for medical emergencies, such as life-threatening problems.
These include - heat attacks/chest pain, severe breathing problem, severe bleeding or accidents etc.
PLEASE call your local emergency number or attend the nearest casualty in any of such cases.
Check Your Device
2. Check your phone or computer Mic and Camera are working as these failing to work can be VERY frustrating. And make sure your phone or computer are charged!
It's also good to be familiar with how the app or website works before your consultation starts.
Prepare Your Thoughts Beforehand
3. Get your symptoms and questions prepared before you start.
This allows you to use your time well and remember things you want to say during the consultation.
Especially if you are requesting medications - list them out before hand so you don't leave any out.
Having an empty packet or bottle; prescription stub or foil from your last prescription can help if you are using a private provider that is not your regular doctor.
This is just in case they cannot access to your GP records and allows accurate prescribing of your medicines.
Lights and Camera!
4. If you can, sit in a well-lit room so the doctor can see you quite clearly. Throughout the consultation, the doctor is observing your features for signs of ill health including your appearance.
Looking sweaty or pale, or the way you speak might suggest a problem with your breathing.
We use these measures in addition to the symptoms to help guide the advice provided.
Get Your Online Medical Kit
5. One of the big issues around the telemedicine is the lack of physical examination but there are a number of ways of adapting to this including having certain handy, small pieces of equipment in the home that could facilitate the consultation.
This will be useful especially if you have chronic conditions or for acute illnesses like a fever. Examples are;
- Digital Thermometer. Whether for young kids or older people, having a thermometer st home helps.
- You can tell your doctor what your temperature is at the consultation.
- This can guide the decision to treat you at home or whether you need to come into hospital.
- Digital Thermometers that can fit into the ear or underarm are more accurate than forehead strips.
- Blood Pressure machine.
- A simple digital machine is perfect for this purpose; the wrist machines are less accurate than the machines with upper arm cuffs.
- Make sure the cuff correctly fits your upper arm measurement as ill-fitting cuffs could lead to wrong BP readings.
- Pulse Oximeter.
- This small piece of equipment measures the oxygen levels in the blood using light-sensitive sensors.
- The sensors identify haemoglobin molecules carrying oxygen in our fingers.
- This is of a big help at present for many patients with Covid -19; but in assessing other conditions where breathing could be compromised - Asthma, COPD, or heart disease they can be of value.
- Use your camera and take non-sensitive images of skin rashes or lumps, or even the back of the throat for people who have a throat infection.
- Many providers allow you to upload images, documents or letters or test results that you can share with the doctor to use during the consultation so get these ready before you start.
Now, it is NOT compulsory that you must have any of this equipment before your consultation.
They are recommended as they could make your consultation more effective by providing information about your physical state during the illness.
There are some of us with specific conditions for whom having certain equipment at home would be essential.
Examples are Blood Sugar machines - for people who are diabetic.
Urinalysis and ketone sticks would be of help in monitoring sugar and ketone levels to guide your management.
At a treatment review have your readings from your BM machine ready to go over with your clinician.
That will save the time you would require to get the materials during the consultation (and cost!)
When Online Assessment is NOT Enough
Most of the time, the problem is straightforward and the doctor can advise, or provide you with treatment remotely.
But in some cases, an actual physical examination is necessary and you may be asked to attend the hospital instead.
However, just following these tips may provide all that many of us will need in carrying out a safe and effective telemedicine consultation right in your own home.
The Last Word
Ok everyone, - let me know what else has been useful or went wrong during your own online consultation in the comments below.
And if you need to consult now - click here to begin!
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
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