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How To Have Effective Online Health Consultations.

May 29, 2020

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:

Image of tools for online health consultations

Beginning of 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 health consultations can take different formats.

Essentially, it means that rather than physical doctor visits, with a 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 for Using Your Session Effectively

In some cases, the consultation is with your usual service provider, who has now introduced remote or virtual consultations.

However, many times it may be 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?

Check Ahead

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 – heart 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

Next, 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 is charged!

It’s also good to be familiar with how the app or website works before your consultation starts.

Prepare Beforehand

You should 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 beforehand 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 your GP records and allows accurate prescribing of your medicines.

Lights, Sound and Camera

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.

Assemble Your Kit

Finally, one of the big issues around 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;

  1. Digital Thermometer. Whether for young kids or older people, having a thermometer at 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 the hospital.
    • Digital Thermometers that can fit into the ear or underarm are more accurate than forehead strips.
  2. 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.
    • Ensure the cuff fits your upper arm measurement correctly, as ill-fitting cuffs could lead to wrong BP readings.
  3. 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 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.
  4. Images!
    • 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, 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 online health consultations.

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 our own homes.

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!

More Reading


Telemedicine Opportunities for Member States

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of healthcare conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality healthcare. 

The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified healthcare practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly

Credit Source @ Canva

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