How to Decide if Telehealth is Right for You
If you hadn’t heard of telehealth before the Coronavirus pandemic, likely you have by now. While the trend of seeing your doctor virtually has accelerated over the past year and a half, this new way of interacting with your health provider offers many benefits that are sure to last.
Some Kingsway Community residents use telehealth appointments as a way to make check-ups and specialist visits that much easier and safer, but there are still plenty of people who aren’t quite sure about the whole thing. Here, Natalie Turner, LMSW, a case manager at Albany Medical Center’s Alzheimer’s Center, answers some of the key questions about telehealth.
What is telehealth and how is it used?
Telehealth is the delivery of health services using communication and technology devices (phones, computers, tablets, etc.). At the Alzheimer’s Center at Albany Med, we use two main types of telemedicine: telephone visits and video visits. For telephone visits, patients just need access to a telephone. For a video visit, patients need access to a computer with a camera and microphone. We have had many patients and families take advantage of both our telehealth service options.
When and why is telehealth a good option?
The use of telehealth can be an especially good option for seniors who may have difficulty leaving their home or challenges with transportation. It has also been critical during the COVID-19 pandemic to limit the number of people physically going into doctor’s offices to reduce the spread of COVID. Since our clinic focuses on dementia and memory loss, telehealth appointments are especially useful for those being seen for a routine follow-up appointment. Sometimes new symptoms or questions on disease progression can be discussed using a telehealth appointment. At this point, the Alzheimer’s Center is not able to conduct new patient visits with telehealth. Our providers first need to evaluate and assess the patient in person before being able to follow up with telehealth. If you have questions about whether your visit can be done via telehealth, call your provider’s office to discuss—each clinic has its own protocols. Depending on your condition or the reason for your visit, your provider may wish to see you in person.
How does telehealth work at Albany Med?
If someone does decide to use telehealth to conduct their appointment, he or she first discusses with the office whether it will be a telephone or video visit. At the day and time of the appointment, patients and families will either receive a call from their provider (for a telephone visit) or log in to the virtual waiting room (for a video visit) and wait for their provider. Once both parties are present, the visit begins just like any other appointment and patients can discuss their concerns with their provider.
What if I’m not tech-savvy?
The use of telehealth can be intimidating, especially for those who do not consider themselves “tech-savvy.” However, if you’ve ever called your doctor’s office to talk with your doctor or a nurse, you have participated in a form of telehealth. Our Center has tried to make participating in telehealth as easy as possible. With the use of telephone visits, you can speak with your doctor over the phone, but the video visits can be slightly more intimidating, as many people are not comfortable with the technology. Here are a few tips for navigating a video telehealth appointment, if you’re feeling worried:
Start preparing for a video visit well before the appointment by practicing. Use your computer or tablet often to get comfortable with it, practice logging in and checking your internet connection.
Talk with your friends or family about their telehealth visit and ask them how it went and how they prepared.
Reach out to your doctor’s office to discuss what the telehealth visit would look like.
There are also local resources to help you get comfortable with technology. The Albany Guardian Society provides several classes on using technology and some of the local libraries have classes you can take as well.
Will telehealth appointments go away after COVID is over?
We believe that telehealth is here to stay due to the many benefits of offering remote care, not just for seniors, but also the broader community. So, it’s even more important than ever to learn more about it so you can decide if it’s right for you and your loved ones.