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Telehealth Appointments: What to Ask Your Doctor During an Online Visit

Telehealth Appointments: What to Ask Your Doctor During an Online Visit

Important questions you shouldn’t forget

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Much like a regular visit to the doctor’s office, virtual visits with your doctor are a face-to-face check-in. The main difference is that there are screens between you. You’ll still be able to ask the same questions you would in a normal visit. You’ll be able to get prescriptions, and you can still bring a family member or friend.

However, because telehealth is still unfamiliar to many people, it could be strange to talk to your doctor the same way you’d video chat a friend. That’s why, before your visit, you should make sure you write your questions down. You might forget to ask all your questions while you’re figuring out telehealth, so if you’ve written them down, it will help you focus. Here are some of the basic questions you should ask during a virtual doctor’s appointment.

Don’t ask: Should I seek emergency care?

Don’t ask: Should I seek emergency care?

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Before we get into the questions you should be asking, one thing you should not ask questions about is whether or not you’re experiencing a medical emergency. Never wait for a telehealth check-in or a video visit. Call 911 for immediate assistance if you’re experiencing signs of a heart attack, stroke or difficulty breathing, if you’ve experienced head trauma or if you’re feeling faint.

Can you see me and hear me?

Can you see me and hear me?

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Because you aren’t physically in the office with your doctor, it is important that you are seated in good lighting and that you are in a quiet place. Before you begin, ask your doctor if the lighting is strong enough and if you can be heard easily. If they ask you to use headphones or to move to an area with more direct lighting, it will make the visit easier and help you get the most out of your appointment.

Will I be able to get a prescription or a prescription refill?

Will I be able to get a prescription or a prescription refill?

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Though many health care providers have made notes on their websites that they can fill and write prescriptions after a virtual call, you can always ask your doctor just to be sure. This will also give you time to ask any questions you have about current medications, why you’re feeling certain side effects or whether the medication is right for you. Much the same as an in-person visit, your doctor should know how your medications are affecting you so you can both work to figure out what your future treatment plan should look like.

What can you diagnose through telemedicine?

What can you diagnose through telemedicine?

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While there are many things your doctor will be able to diagnose over the phone or through a video call, there are certain conditions that will require a follow-up visit and testing in person or a procedure done at a hospital. You can ask your doctor at the start of the call if your symptoms can be diagnosed via call or if they recommend getting in-person care. Some of the common illnesses and injuries that can be detected via call include fever, headaches, coronavirus anxiety, constipation, ear infection, pelvic pain, sleep problems and strep throat.

Is this visit being recorded?

Is this visit being recorded?

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Telemedicine is a learning process for many of us. If you’re unsure about the privacy of your call, it is your right to ask whether or not the call is being recorded. For patient safety and privacy, the call should not be recorded, though it’s always best to ask just to be safe and reassured.

What can I do about changes in my mental health?

What can I do about changes in my mental health?

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Mental health can shift over time depending on many factors. Diet, medications, genetic and environmental factors all play a role in mental health, and if you notice a change, it’s important for your doctor to know. When you’re both on the same page, it can be easier to determine the best treatment options.

My symptoms have changed, is this normal?

My symptoms have changed, is this normal?

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You know your body best, and if you’re experiencing a change in symptoms or your health in general, it’s best to tell your doctor. They will be able to more thoroughly evaluate how the symptoms are related to underlying health factors. Letting your doctor know about changes could also be a way to detect early signs of cancer or other diseases.

What are some trusted sources I can read to learn more?

What are some trusted sources I can read to learn more?

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This question can encompass a lot of topics. You can ask where you should find more information on a diagnosis. You can ask why you’ve been prescribed a certain medication and where you can find more information on the drug. You can also ask about where you can learn more about certain tests you have to take. Your doctor will steer you in the right direction so you don’t go down an internet rabbit hole of misinformation regarding your health.

Is this side effect normal?

Is this side effect normal?

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Starting a new medication or switching medications can take a toll on your body. If you’re unfamiliar with the side effects your medication can cause, new feelings or pains could alarm you. Be sure to ask your doctor which side effects you should expect and which ones should cause worry.

What can I do about my pain?

What can I do about my pain?

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If you’re experiencing pain anywhere, it’s always best to voice the issue to your doctor. Even if it’s just a strained muscle, he or she can recommend ways of easing your pain. If the pain goes beyond strained muscles or a typical cold-and-flu headache, your doctor can recommend further testing or find a treatment plan.

Why is my dosage changing?

Why is my dosage changing?

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If you’ve spoken with your doctor about side effects or concerns about certain medications, they might change your dosage. If this occurs, be sure to ask about the change. Will you be taking more? Will you be taking less? How will this change help?

What are the potential side effects?

What are the potential side effects?

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If your doctor has listened to your concerns, diagnosed you and written you a new prescription, it’s time to ask about the possible side effects you could experience when starting the medication. It’s important to ask questions about how the medication could change your mental health, physical health or diet. Your doctor might tell you how long side effects may last, but if they don’t warn you, be sure to ask so you can be prepared.

What should I do if my symptoms get worse?

What should I do if my symptoms get worse?

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This is a great question to ask so you can be prepared if you start to feel worse. Your doctor can give you tips on what to expect and how to go about getting help if you find yourself needing emergency care. Your doctor might even give you warning signs to look for that you might not have otherwise detected.

What foods will interfere with my medication?

What foods will interfere with my medication?

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Depending on your medication, there could be certain foods or ingredients to avoid in order for your medication to work as best as possible. Rather than making assumptions, it could be beneficial to ask your doctor for a specific list of foods you should avoid. For instance, if caffeine is on your list of foods you can’t have, you might first think to avoid coffee. However, there are plenty of unexpected foods with caffeine, and your doctor could help alert you to such examples.

What should I expect?

What should I expect?

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Whether it’s about pre- or post-exam, or concerns you have for after a treatment or surgery, it is always important to understand what you should expect. This will help you determine how many days off work you might need, what sort of extra help you might need around the house, or when you can expect to go about your regular schedule again.

How did you come to this diagnosis?

How did you come to this diagnosis?

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Oftentimes, it can feel easier to ask questions when you’re at an in-person exam because you might feel more connected and comfortable. To ensure that you’re leaving your telehealth visit as reassured about your health as possible, be sure to ask your doctor how they came to the diagnosis they gave you.

Is there anything else I can be doing?

Is there anything else I can be doing?

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If your doctor discusses something with you and you don’t ask questions, they could be assuming that you’re familiar with the topic. Even if you are familiar with the procedure, diagnosis or test they bring up, you can always go one step further and ask if there is anything you can do to help your situation. This could be anything from foods to avoid for a healthier lifestyle to how to prepare for an upcoming surgery.

Can you explain that more?

Can you explain that more?

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If you’re feeling uncertain about something, it’s always better to ask too many questions than not enough. If your doctor mentions the name of something you’re not familiar with or brings up a set of procedures you’ve never heard of, speak up. Ask for a more in-depth explanation so you can approach any upcoming tests, labs or surgeries with less fear or misconception.

What are the next steps?

What are the next steps?

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Whether you need to be referred to a specialist, schedule your next appointment or make time to complete certain lab work, it is important that you and your doctor discuss what happens next. If you need a prescription, it also might be helpful to double-check that your doctor has the correct pharmacy location on file. This will save you a trip to the wrong pharmacy.

When and how should I follow up?

When and how should I follow up?

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If you have tasks to complete such as sharing a food log with your dietician or a blood pressure log with your primary care doctor, ask how they would like to follow up. Some health professionals might recommend sending a picture through your patient portal or setting up another video call. Telehealth can be daunting at first, so if you find that you’re still not comfortable navigating the tools, here is a primer that will help you understand what to expect during a virtual doctor’s visit.

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