Nervous about using telehealth? Read this
The idea of having a doctor consultation via the internet or phone might sound a bit confusing if you’re not familiar with it, but telehealth is a simple, hassle-free way of getting the same high standard of healthcare you’d get face to face – without the travel time.
To help you get more comfortable with telehealth, we asked digital health expert and GP Dr Amandeep Hansra to address some common patient concerns.
Is it right for me?
Dr Hansra says telehealth consultations won’t replace face-to-face consultations completely, but they are a great option when you can’t get in front of the doctor, perhaps due to distance or time. They’re also fantastic for people who aren’t confident with English, as interpreter services can work alongside telehealth services (ask your healthcare provider for more information).
While there are some situations where the doctor will need to see you face to face – think: injections, cervical smears – there’s a surprisingly large number of things that can be done easily via a phone or video .
“We can order investigations, prescribe medications, discuss blood test results and do treatment plans, even if we can’t physically examine the patient,” says Dr Hansra. “And we have techniques to ask the right questions to reach a diagnosis by telehealth.”
Is it safe to use?
Some people may have concerns about internet security, but Dr Hansra says GP practices use telehealth software that’s highly secure and private.
“If you’re worried about using video, it’s worth talking to your practitioner about any concerns you have, and whether there an option to do a phone call instead.”
How do I get started?
Next, contact your GP practice to find out what telehealth options are offered. If you don’t have good internet, a phone call might be better than a video consultation.
“Some people can be a little hesitant about using telehealth, but as healthcare professionals, we try to make it as easy as possible,” Dr Hansra says.
Here are her tips for getting the most from your consultation:
- Have a pen and paper handy so you can write down any advice or instructions from the doctor
- If you get cut off, wait for the doctor to call back
- Don’t be shy about asking the doctor to repeat things like instructions and make sure you feel comfortable before ending the call
- Find out how the doctor will get a script, medical certificate or referral to you (if relevant). This might involve email, post or them sending it directly to a pharmacy or specialist.
What if I need telehealth help?
Your GP practice is there to help – so reach out if you’re nervous.
“Some practices will provide a service where they’ll help you connect the first time, so they might have a receptionist or somebody who can walk you through the process,” says Dr Hansra.
“And once you’ve done it the first or second time, usually you’re fine on your own. Most of my patients who’ve done it once are very keen to do it over and over again”