How to Make Virtual Doctor’s Visits Less Awkward

With COVID-19, many healthcare systems and patients have dramatically shifted toward more telemedicine visits. Although the shift has come with hiccups, telehealth has proven to be a really powerful tool in both reducing the risk of COVID19 spread to both patients and staff and in increasing access to care.

As a clinician who went from doing all in-person visits to all phone and video visits within weeks, I learned how to do telemedicine alongside my patients. The learning curve was a bit awkward as my training did not focus on navigating Zoom, but we eventually figured out a better flow. 

Through experiences with my now many telehealth visits, I have collected a few tips and tricks below to help your virtual visit be more efficient and (hopefully) less awkward. 

Choose a safe, private setting to talk. 

If I had a nickel for every time someone tried to talk to me while they were driving, I would be a rich woman. Each time has not gone well, with signal going in and out or having to pause while someone makes a delivery or stops to say hi to a friend. For the record, driving and having a telemedicine consult (phone or video) is not safe and can lead to more miscommunication.

Similarly, if I had a nickel for every time someone became squeamish or did not want to answer one question because of someone else nearby, I would also be a rich woman. As clinicians, we often have to ask sensitive questions that can get pretty personal. If you can freely provide the answers we need, we can make a more accurate assessment and a better treatment plan for you. 

So, find a room at your apartment that is quiet, maybe even the bathroom nobody uses. Go sit in your parked car if you need to. Go to the basement of your house. We don’t care if your room is clean - we care that you have a safe and private space to speak with us. 

If you are someone who has concerns about safety or privacy in your spaces, please talk to your healthcare provider’s office beforehand as there are some strategies we can use to help.

Do a little meeting prep. 

Is there a specific concern you had? A symptom your worried about? A test you wanted? What was that medication you had a question about?

Jot down your questions and concerns before the visit. Even better, circle the topics that are most important for you to cover now in case there isn’t time.

Pull up your old records or test results to have on hand if needed.

Visits can go by fast. Doing a little preparation can help your provider serve you best. 

Find good lighting

Telemedicine can be a powerful tool, but we lose some of the physical clues that in-person visits give us. As clinicians, we rely on good visuals to read your expressions and to get a general idea of what your health is like. Good lighting can help give us more accurate visual clues. 

I recommend bright, natural daylight if possible or just a well lit room. If you have a concern like a rash or a bump, it may be useful to have a flashlight on hand so you can illuminate details.  

Test your technology

“Hello, Miss, can you please press the button with the microphone on it so I can hear you?” 

Unfortunately, I have spent a lot of time with patients trying to help them troubleshoot their technology. While I don’t mind helping, I also don’t want to waste our scheduled time dealing with technical difficulties instead of with the medical concern.

Give yourself at least 15 minutes before your visit to test out your equipment and download whatever app you may need. 

Accept the fact that this might require some flexibility. 

Your visit might start a little late due to technical difficulties. During your visit, your provider might identify something that requires you to be seen in-person. Wireless can be glitchy. Telemedicine is getting better, but it still comes with challenges and might still be a little awkward. 

You can focus on trying to give us the best information possible and we will focus on giving you the best care we can.