What Can Telehealth Do For You?

Submitted by
Cornelia M. Poer, MSW, LCSW

Duke Geriatric Evaluation and Treatment Clinic

COVID-19 has changed a lot in the world in a very short period of time.  The changes seem to be happening so quickly that it is hard to keep up with them.  In an effort to reduce the spread of this coronavirus, we are all encouraged to wash our hands frequently, maintain safe distances of at least six feet apart, and most importantly, to stay-at-home.

While all of these approaches are critical, it is also important to remember that stay-at-home does not mean neglect your health.  It is vital that we eat healthy food, find ways to exercise regularly, remain socially engaged with family and friends through frequent phone calls or via computer, minimize the amount of news we watch, and consult our medical professionals as needed about health conditions or concerns.

Just the thought of going to a doctor’s office or clinic right now can be overwhelming to many, especially older adults.  There are, however, other acceptable options for getting your medical needs addressed during this pandemic, such as telehealth.  A good alternative to an in-person encounter can be a phone call or a video appointment from your medical providers.  While many offices and clinics are not routinely seeing patients in their buildings, they are able to speak with you via telephone or video. Check with your healthcare provider to find out if they are participating in telehealth.

How does this work?  It is important to call your doctor’s office to make a telehealth appointment so they can be prepared.  They will set up a date and time for your appointment, determine the kind of appointment (video or telephone), and collect any important information for that appointment, such as changes in medications or medical conditions.

What if you have never used video or feel you are technically challenged? If you have a computer and internet or a smart phone, a video appointment most likely can be arranged.  Some offices even have support staff who can talk with you in advance regarding video platform options and help walk you through the process.

What can telehealth do for you?  Patients and their loved ones have had very positive responses to telehealth appointments.  They have found reassurance, guidance, and support to maintain their health and well being during these very challenging times.  If it is determined that someone needs to be seen or lab work is immediately necessary, an in-person appointment can be arranged.

Will my insurance pay for a telehealth appointment?  Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurers have responded to the crisis by agreeing to pay for telephone and video visits.  Some plans may charge a co-pay, that will be billed later, equal to what you would pay when you go to the office.

Please remember, Duke, UNC and Wake Med are open and are all still taking new patients as well as established ones.  Call your health care provider today regarding health conditions and concerns.  Remember, we are all in this together.