Four ways to prepare for a virtual doctor’s visit

July 01, 2020

A virtual visit with your doctor can be a convenient alternative to in-person visits for many types of medical care, including preventive care.

This article was updated August 3, 2020, with information about costs for virtual doctor’s office visits.

While the technology isn’t new, virtual doctor’s visits in the United States have increased dramatically during the COVID-19 crisis. For virtual visits, doctors use live, two-way audio-visual telecommunications technology, like Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime, to provide care to patients. This decreases potential exposure to the virus while preserving resources, including personal protective equipment.

Virtual visits can be an alternative to in-person visits for many types of medical services, including routine primary care, pediatric care, medication management, and urgent care for minor issues. If your doctor thinks you need more direct care, he or she will ask you to make an appointment to come into the office.

Having a virtual preventive exam can satisfy the physical exam requirement for Call to Health.* If you’re not ready to visit your doctor’s office in person due to concerns about COVID-19, check to see if you can have your preventive checkup virtually.

If you have medical coverage through the Board of Pensions, you typically pay the same copays, deductibles, and/or copayments for virtual visits that you would for in-person doctor’s office visits. However due to the COVID-19 emergency, if you’re enrolled in the PPO, EPO, or HDHP, you pay $0 for virtual visits with a network primary care doctor or network specialist. (The Board will re-evaluate this decision every 30 days.) If you’re enrolled in the Medicare Supplement Plan, Medicare covers virtual check-ins with your doctor by phone or video. You pay your usual Medicare deductible and coinsurance for these services.

How to prepare for a virtual doctor's visit

Here are some things you can do to help get the most out of a virtual visit with your doctor.

  1. Make sure you have the right equipment. To connect using both video and audio, you’ll need a smartphone, tablet, or computer that's connected to the internet. You may also need to download an app or software to connect with the doctor. Before your appointment, check with your doctor’s office about their preferred platform and for specific instructions for when and how to access it.
  2. Prepare as you would for an in-person visit. It’s a good idea to write down any concerns or symptoms you want to discuss with the doctor, so you won’t forget anything. And, have paper and a pen handy so you can take notes during the virtual visit.
  3. Sit in a quiet, well-lit space. Do your best to find a quiet, comfortable indoor space with as few distractions and as little noise as possible. Avoid sitting in front of a bright window and position your device so your face is in the middle of the screen and your webcam is at eye level, so the doctor can see you clearly.
  4. Consider having someone else join you. Depending on the type of visit, you may want to have a family member sit in on the call to help take notes or to raise any concerns if you forget something.

Teladoc

If you are enrolled in the PPO, EPO, or HDHP medical option, you have 24/7 access, by phone, video, or mobile app, to board-certified physicians through Teladoc.* Teladoc is a convenient, affordable option for acute care when your primary doctor isn’t available, such as holidays or in the middle of the night. And, due to the COVID-19 emergency, all copays, deductibles, and/or coinsurance will be waived when using Teladoc. The Board will re-evaluate this decision every 30 days.

Before using Teladoc for the first time, visit the Teladoc website to set up an account and complete your medical history. This provides the Teladoc doctor with information about any past or current illnesses, as well as any medication you take and your family history. All information you provide and from your Teladoc visit is completely confidential and is not shared with your employer or the Board of Pensions.

Learn more about using your medical benefits through the Board.

*Call to Health and Teladoc are not available to those enrolled in Triple-S, GeoBlue, or the Medicare Supplement Plan.