By Deirdre Wheat M.D., Medical Director, Quality, Disease & Case Management, Independent Health

Do you have a health concern, but are reluctant to leave your home or visit your doctor’s office during these uncertain times? Maybe you are experiencing a non-emergent medical problem, like pink eye or allergies, have a question about managing a chronic condition or simply need to get a prescription filled?

If so, there’s a very good chance you can receive the care and advice you need all in the comfort of your home. That’s because many physician practices have been working to set up telehealth capabilities so they can treat their patients through remote technologies instead of in-person.

Telehealth means that visits are conducted remotely either by phone, e-mail, through an online patient portal or face-to-face using video chat services like Skype or FaceTime. Although telehealth has been around for a few years, there has been a surge in demand and availability due to the recent pandemic. Telehealth is an easy, safe, and popular way to interact with your doctor. If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, you may be able to request a telehealth visit with your doctor to determine if you should be tested.

Each practice has its own way of scheduling and conducting these types of services. If you are not sure, check with your doctor’s office to see if telehealth visits are available for your situation.

How to prepare for a telehealth visit

Preparedness is key for your telehealth visit. In many ways, a telehealth visit is similar to an in-person visit: 

  • Most providers require you to make an appointment. 
  • You will probably receive an appointment reminder via phone call, text message, and/or e-mail.
  • Prior to starting your appointment, your personal details will be verified. 
  • You will be speaking directly with your provider during your visit. 
  • You can ask a family member to join the visit or talk with the doctor as they might in person.

However, a telehealth visit is different from an in-person visit because its success relies so heavily on the use of technology. You can do your part by preparing your:

  • Environment: Pick a quiet area with few distractions so your doctor can hear you and you can focus on your appointment. Try to have your kids, the dog and the television in another area. Make sure you have good lighting so your doctor can see you.
  • Information: Have your history, medication and allergy lists available. It’s a good idea to prepare a list of questions ahead and have them ready to ask.
  • Self: Be on time. If you are using audiovisual technology, your doctor can you see you just as you can see them. Remember, you are the star of the show. Dress and prepare your appearance just as you would for an in-person visit.

At this time, Independent Health has removed the member cost share for in-network telehealth services*, even if it’s not COVID-19 related. We have expanded this coverage as a way to encourage social distancing and help reduce the risk of spreading this virus.

Other ways Independent Health members can get the care they need

Although Independent Health encourages our members to contact their primary care physician for their medical needs, we realize this isn’t always possible. So, if you are having difficulty reaching your doctor, you can use our telemedicine benefit through Teladoc®, which allows you to talk with a doctor anytime, anywhere by phone, mobile app or online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week**. We have waived the member cost share for Teladoc services during the COVID-19 outbreak for your ease and convenience.

In addition, we offer a free 24-Hour Medical Help Line, which allows our members to speak with an experienced registered nurse to get answers to general health questions or concerns. Our nurses can help you learn more about the treatment and procedure options available to you for different health problems and diseases. The phone number for the 24-Hour Medical Help Line is 1-800-501-3439.

*Medicare Members are responsible for the cost share associated with ancillary services (e.g. dietitians). Members who are Self-Funded through your employer should contact us at (716) 631-2661 or 1-800-257-2753 for more information on telehealth benefits and the cost.

**Teladoc is not available to MediSource, MediSource Connect, Essential Plan and Child Health Plus members. Additionally, members who are Self-Funded through your employer should contact us at (716) 631-2661 or 1-800-257-2753 for more information on Teladoc benefits and the cost.