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Everything you ever wanted to know about telehealth (but were too afraid to ask)

Dec 21, 2020 COVID-19 , Family Medicine Share:

Did you know that telehealth virtual doctor appointments are now available for new and existing MedHelp patients? We use telehealth as part of our COVID-19 testing protocol, but you can also schedule a telehealth appointment for both urgent care and primary care issues.

Telehealth visits are a convenient and safe option for our patients to receive medical care from the comfort of their own home. But if you’ve never had a telehealth visit, you may be curious about how they work. We’re here to demystify telehealth visits at MedHelp.

male nurse getting ready to give a drive up test for covid-19 at medhelp urgent care

Telehealth appointments to screen for COVID-19 testing

In order to get tested for COVID-19 at any MedHelp clinic, you’ll need to have a telehealth appointment first. This is a requirement for all of our tests for COVID-19, and no patients should come to a clinic for testing unless they’ve had a telehealth screening.

This may seem a little extreme, but we require a telehealth visit for all COVID-19 tests because our goal isn’t simply to determine whether you’re positive or negative for the virus. Our goal is to get you back to health. A telehealth visit helps us do the following:

  • Make sure you really do need a test for COVID-19. If you are presenting with primary symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus, you do need to get tested. Our providers can help you determine whether or not your symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, and they can also help you know whether or not your exposure warrants a test.
  • Provide convenient and stress-free test scheduling. Needing a test for COVID-19 is stressful enough, so we want to make our testing process as easy as possible. Other clinics offer testing on a first-come, first-served basis and the wait can be lengthy and inconvenient. But once you’ve had your telehealth visit at MedHelp, you can come for your drive-up test at your convenience during our regular testing hours.
  • Determine other testing needs. COVID-19 has many symptoms in common with other illnesses. For example, flu and COVID-19 are virtually indistinguishable without a test. Your sore throat and low-grade fever could be COVID-19, or they could be indicative of strep or mono. If you test negative for COVID-19, you may need further testing to determine what’s causing your illness.
  • Make it easier for you to get treatment. If you’re negative for COVID-19 but also symptomatic, you may need treatment to get better. For example, strep will require a course of antibiotics in order for you to get well. If you’re experiencing shortness of breath and it isn’t COVID-19, you may need to come in for a chest x-ray to determine the cause. Your telehealth visit streamlines any other treatment you may need if you’re negative for COVID-19.

When to schedule a virtual doctor appointment

Telehealth for urgent care

Telehealth appointments are a great option for those times when you’re not sure if you should come to the doctor for an urgent care visit or not. Even if it’s a small issue like a nagging headache or persistent dizziness, getting in contact with a provider through a telehealth visit can help you get some answers. While a phone call with your doctor can’t replace a physical exam, communicating with a provider about your symptoms can help us determine how to best treat you and get you feeling well.

Many people are concerned about coming in for an appointment for urgent care issues because they’re afraid of getting the coronavirus from the clinic. While you shouldn’t be afraid to come to MedHelp - no patients with symptoms of COVID-19 enter the clinic unless they have a negative test from our lab - we’re happy to talk with you over the phone if that makes you more comfortable.

Telehealth appointments are also helpful for patients who may be bedridden due to other chronic conditions.

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, you’ll need to have a telehealth appointment and a COVID test. Some other urgent care issues that are treatable through telehealth include:

  • Headaches
  • Rashes
  • Pink eye
  • Cellulitis
  • UTI
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Always remember that our primary goal is to treat you and get you back to health, whether it’s through a telehealth visit or an in-person exam.

Telehealth for primary care

While telehealth appointments aren’t a replacement for regular in-person visits with your primary care doctor, they can be a convenient option for follow-up and monitoring.

Telehealth visits can be used to discuss recent lab results, or you can update your doctor on changes in symptoms of an ongoing condition. We can also schedule telehealth appointments to manage your prescriptions and refills.

senior woman talking on the phone with medhelp telehealth virtual doctor appointment

What to expect from your telehealth visit

If you’ve never had a virtual doctor’s appointment before, the thought of scheduling a telehealth visit may be a little intimidating. But there’s nothing to fear from your telehealth appointment. Our goal is to make communicating with your provider as easy and as straightforward as possible. Here’s what you can expect from your telehealth visit:

  • To schedule a telehealth appointment, call and leave a message at our main telehealth number, 205-306-2131. For a COVID-19 test, the fastest way to schedule your telehealth appointment is to fill out our online form. We have several nurses monitoring these messages, and you can expect a return phone call in under an hour during our regular telehealth hours (Monday thru Saturday, 8 am - 4 pm). If you call after hours, you can expect a phone call the next morning.
  • A nurse will call you to gather information such as your symptoms, a short medical history, and insurance. You’ll schedule your telehealth appointment at this time. Most visits are scheduled for the same day.
  • Your provider will call you at your scheduled appointment time. You don’t need any special equipment for your virtual appointment; we conduct all telehealth appointments over the phone. Just like a regular doctor’s appointment, you’ll talk with your provider about your symptoms and medical history, and he or she will determine your best course of treatment. Many patients without symptoms of COVID-19 can be treated without coming to one of our clinics, and if you need any prescriptions, we can call them in for you at your local pharmacy.
  • If you need further testing or an exam, you simply come to one of our urgent care clinics near you. Because you’ve already “seen” your provider in a telehealth visit, you’ll experience a shorter wait time for your test or your clinic visit.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you’ll need to come for a drive-up test at one of our clinics. Drive-up testing is done on your schedule; once you’ve had your telehealth appointment, you can come for testing at any time during our regular testing hours. We can provide results in as little as fifteen minutes. If your test is negative, you may need to come to our urgent care clinic for further testing (such as a chest x-ray, strep test, or flu test) or an exam. Your provider will let you know what you need to do next.

Telehealth Q&A

We get questions all the time about telehealth. These are some of our most commonly asked questions (and their answers)

Are there any special software requirements for telehealth appointments?

All of our telehealth appointments are conducted over the phone, which means you don’t need any special software or even a smartphone. Our goal is to make our telehealth visits as easy and accessible as possible.

Are telehealth visits secure?

All of our telehealth visits are HIPPA compliant. And because we don’t use any special tools other than a telephone for telehealth visits, you don’t have to worry about your appointment being hacked.

How can you treat me without even seeing me?

We can treat almost all of our telehealth patients by analyzing symptoms and patient history. But if we need more information in order to treat you, we have several options. For example, you can send us a picture of your rash or skin infection through our secure patient portal. And if you need to be tested or seen in order for us to treat you, you simply come into the urgent care clinic nearest you.

What if I can’t come to the clinic?

Telehealth is a great option for patients who can’t come to one of our clinics, either due to illness or transportation issues. But if we need more information than what you can give over the phone, our providers can get creative. For example, a caregiver can bring a test sample in on your behalf. We’re willing to work hard to provide you with complete care.

All of our clinics are safe for in-person urgent care and wellness visits. We keep COVID-19 out of our clinics through our drive-up testing model, so there’s no need to put off necessary medical care for fear of getting sick at one of our clinics. But a telehealth visit can be a convenient, easy way to receive medical care without leaving your home.

Our providers have their patients’ best interests at heart. We can care for you in many ways, including over the phone. Whether you choose an in-person clinic visit or a telehealth visit, you’ll always be treated like family at MedHelp.

Need a telehealth appointment?

Schedule a telehealth appointment with one of our providers today. A telehealth appointment is required for all COVID-19 tests.

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