How To Prepare for a Virtual Doctor's Visit

We’ll equip you with the strategies that will help you make the most of your telehealth consultation.

Last updated: Jan 17th, 2023
How to prepare for a virtual doctor visit

Technology creates new advances, including those in healthcare. In the last few years, telehealth has emerged as a popular approach to healthcare where you can visit a doctor from the comfort of your own home. It’s still a growing field, so you may have already considered trying it out.

If you think you might be ready for a virtual appointment with your doctor, find tips in this article about how to prepare for your visit. Learning the advantages of telehealth and putting in some prep time could reduce any anxiety you feel about this popular healthcare technology.

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Advantages of telehealth doctor visits

Wherever you live – in the city, suburbia, or out in the country – there are benefits to virtual health visits, including:

  • Being in the comfort of your own home, especially when you’re ill
  • Avoiding weather or traffic issues
  • Decreasing waiting room wait time with potential exposure to illnesses
  • Visiting via computer, smartphone, or tablet
  • Meeting with a doctor when it’s hard to get away for a visit, like while caring for young children or an older relative
  • Planning visits while on vacation or a business trip

In addition to these benefits, your provider also takes on a unique role during telehealth visits. Your doctor:

  • Has monitoring devices to track your vital signs and other measures from home
  • Sees your home setting, becoming aware of any potential concerns
  • Has some after-work hours, making scheduling more convenient for you

Telehealth companies also protect your privacy as they have technology that meets legal requirements, such as those associated with HIPAA.

Learn the language of virtual visits

With any new technology comes new terminology. Some of these terms may seem familiar to you, while others may have taken on new meanings. It’s essential to learn the language of telehealth to get the full experience.

  • Telemedicine is a term that’s often used interchangeably with telehealth. They both refer to online doctor visits.
  • Until recently, remote referred to the wilderness or a far-fetched idea. Now it applies to exchanging information with computers and various forms of technology.
  • Virtual refers to a doctor visit that is not in person.
  • Your provider may ask you to use an app as part of your visit or follow-up. Apps are designed for specific audiences and purposes, including tracking food intake and exercise.

This list of terms isn’t exhaustive. If you encounter a telehealth term that you don’t know, look up the meaning or ask your doctor for information.

Preparing for your visit

You’ll get a lot of value out of your virtual visit by setting aside time to prepare. There are three parts to preparing for your virtual doctor’s visit.

  1. Focus on your health
  2. Choose a good location
  3. Conduct a tech test run

To focus on your health, come up with the points you want to discuss with your doctor. Make sure you’ve been heard and that you’re well aware of any next steps.

Preparing your surroundings ahead of time limits distractions that can interfere with communication. Finding a quiet place to conduct your visit may be challenging, but location can be key.

Practicing with your computer setup ensures that you and your surroundings are ready. This applies even if you are familiar with technology and distance communication methods.

Read on to discover more details about each of these three important ways to prepare for your telehealth visit.

Focus on your health

Whether going to an office visit or meeting virtually with your doctor, the focus is on your health. This applies if you have a chronic illness, an emerging concern, or generally good health. These are tips to use for either type of visit.

​​Your health is important to your doctor, just as it is to you and your loved ones. That means your overall health, including both physical and mental. Thinking through the following prompts will assist you in having everything on hand that you want to talk over with your doctor.

Jotting down this info before your appointment will be helpful as you speak with your doctor, lessening any tension as you try to recall details. Taking this step also makes you focus on yourself and the value of your health.

Insider Tip: Another helpful way to prepare for your doctor visit is to access your medical record.

Recent symptoms

Perhaps you’ve had some concerning symptoms lately. Ask yourself some questions and take notes in preparation for your visit:

  • When did you first become aware of your symptoms?
  • What are your symptoms, and are they improving or worsening?
  • When was the last time you went to the doctor?
  • Were there any concerns at the time, like elevated blood pressure or cholesterol?

Current lifestyle

It helps to think over life in general because changes at home or work can affect your health. These are points to consider in the days leading up to your visit:

  • How’s work going?
  • What about your personal life?
  • Are you sleeping well?
  • Have you had any digestion changes?
  • Make a note of any new aches and pains.
  • How’s your mood and outlook on life?
  • Do you use any substances, legal or otherwise?
  • If you’ve been sick more than usual in recent months, make a note of that too.

Recent changes

List any changes you’ve made that affect health, even in a good way.

  • Update your medication, vitamins, and supplements list.
  • Any increase in physical activity is worth noting, regardless of how much.
  • Report any changes to your diet or nutrition.
  • Are there any new stressors in your life?
  • Have you recently moved, changed jobs, or gone through any other significant life changes?
  • What lifestyle or health changes have you made since your last doctor visit?

Make a list of questions

It can be so easy to forget the questions you have for your doctor. That’s even true at in-person visits. As you think about any concerns you have or changes in your health and behaviors, formulate a list of what you want to ask. Then, have these on hand during your virtual visit, assuring that what you most need to know isn’t overlooked.

  • What is this test for, and what does it involve?
  • Will your office help me get information about insurance coverage?
  • How long does it take to get results after that procedure?
  • Is there a website for getting more information? This applies to a chronic illness, a test, or a referral to a specialist or therapist.
  • May I have a summary of our visit?

These questions are merely prompts. You’re likely to come up with others specific to your health needs. Remember that your questions are important as the answers guide your next steps.

Have someone with you

Although there are good reasons for someone to be with you during your visit, doing so is a personal decision. Points to consider include:

  • Are you ill and want someone with you so you don’t miss anything?
  • Do you have sensory limitations, such as impaired hearing or vision? Having a trusted person can help you ensure you have the information you need.
  • Does your spouse or adult child assume some or all responsibility for your health and safety?
  • You’ve had a friend or loved one at recent office visits and want the virtual visit to be the same.
  • Having someone with you helps to limit interruptions.

Sharing notes

If you have your notes typed in a document ahead of time, let your doctor’s office know. They’ll tell you if they want to have a copy on hand.

Read through your questions and notes once before your actual call. Read them out loud rather than silently because the act of speaking in addition to reading will provide deeper familiarity with the materials you’ve prepared. It sounds silly, but doctor visits can be stressful and make any of us a bit flustered, so a bit of preparation can pay off.

Choose a good location

The steps you take to prepare for your virtual doctor’s visit allow things to go as smoothly and constructively as possible. Part of the upside of telemedicine is that you can meet anywhere comfortable for you. But if you don’t consider location until it’s too late, your location might undermine the value of the visit. Here’s what you should do:

  • Select a setting that’s comfortable for you.
  • Adjust lighting to avoid glare that will interfere with your doctor having a clear view of your face.
  • Have everything handy that you’ll want, including some water to sip on.
  • If there’s a phone in the room, set it to mute.
  • Avoid setting up in a room with a lot of exterior noise.
  • Assure privacy. Let your loved ones know that you can’t be interrupted (and for how long). Place a reminder sign on the door, if necessary.
  • Have any pets comfortably secured in another room.

Give yourself at least 10 minutes to spare before your call. You need those final minutes to organize and collect your thoughts. Having your setting ready to go is one less thing to have to think about before your visit.

Conduct a tech test run

Setting aside time for a test run helps you avoid missing your appointment altogether because of technology glitches. No matter how tech-savvy you are, this is useful because all telemedical interfaces are different.

  • Ensure that you have an updated version of the communication tool or platform your doctor’s office uses.
  • Ask if they’re willing to run a test ahead of time or if they have other recommendations for ensuring a good visit.
  • Learn how to use your computer’s audio and microphone functions. Test them in your computer’s settings to ensure that your equipment works properly.
  • Print your health concerns and questions or have them pulled up to view during the visit.

Final thoughts

As you take the steps suggested here, you’ll feel more confident about using telemedicine for aspects of your healthcare. After your first telehealth visit, reflect on what went right and what you might like to work on for your next visit. Remember that preparation can help you have more meaningful visits with your doctor.