The (virtual) doctor will see you now

What you need to know about getting the most out of a virtual care visit

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual medicine was already on its way to becoming a popular and common option for patients and health care providers.

Now, however, with social distancing measures preventing most face-to-face interactions, virtual care has come to play an even bigger role in how patients can get the care they need.

“More and more providers are offering virtual visits as a safe and effective way to continue delivering care,” said Dr. Jim Rickards, MD, Senior Medical Director for Population Health and Delivery System Collaboration at Moda Health.

Essentially any kind of interaction or consultation that occurs between a provider and a patient virtually – via phone or video conference – virtual care allows patients to communicate directly with providers in real time from afar. Rickards said that, while some people might still think they need to see a doctor in person for effective care, good providers can use virtual care effectively. 

“A lot of the time, if you just have a conversation with your patient and you really listen to them, a good provider can come up with an accurate diagnosis,” he said.

Treatment, on the other hand, may require something more than virtual care.

“If someone needs a surgery or some kind of intervention that requires a physical interaction, obviously virtual care won’t work,” Rickards said.

While most insurance companies are covering virtual health visits, Rickards said it’s important to always check with your plan to make sure. He also said it can be helpful to have questions for your provider written down in advance of a virtual consultation.

In addition, make sure you’re in a private, secure area for your virtual visit and that your device is fully charged and getting good reception. Most smartphones work well for virtual care consultations with platforms like FaceTime or other video conferencing apps. 

“And if you really think you need to come in and see your doctor in person, talk to your provider specifically about that,” Rickards said. “Virtual care is great, but doctors are also pretty good about recommending when you might actually need to meet face-to-face.”

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