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Telemedicine 101: How to Prepare for Your Virtual Appointment

August 14, 2020

Cancer patients continue to require critical, quality care to fight their illness during COVID-19. However, for many Texans living with cancer, particularly those with weakened immune systems or who live in at-risk communities, leaving home can be worrisome. Telemedicine plays an essential role in helping patients remain closely connected to their cancer care teams during the pandemic.

Through telemedicine, patients have access to the expertise of their physician, even if they live miles away from their physician. It also allows care teams to continue actively following patients while outside the clinic walls. Patients can use telemedicine for follow-up visits, acute care visits, and consultations for specialized care.

Telemedicine may also offer the ability for family members to join a visit – an added advantage of when many clinics are limiting or temporarily prohibiting visitors to in-person appointments. This can allow for important decisions about treatment to be inclusive of other caregivers.

Through telemedicine, patients have access to the expertise of their physician, even if they live miles away from their physician."

Accessing telemedicine often requires simply a smartphone or camera-enabled computer, and functions through a web application that guides users through a virtual waiting room. Like any doctor’s visit, your appointment will be made easier by knowing what to expect and taking steps to prepare.

  1. Not sure if telemedicine is for you? Just ask. Before you assume telemedicine is or isn’t an option, call your clinic to discuss your individual situation and discuss opportunities to access telemedicine services. Factors to consider include your treatment regimen and any personalized care needs.
  2. Check your connection. Telemedicine requires a reliable internet connection at both ends. Ensure your home is internet accessible, or that wherever you choose to use your smartphone has ample coverage. Additionally, your laptop or smartphone should be camera and microphone enabled.
  3. Get the app before your appointment. A member of your care team should contact you prior to your first appointment to ensure you have properly launched the telemedicine application. The application provides guided setup instructions, but it’s a good idea to ask questions about the service before your appointment.
  4. Test it out. Don’t wait until the day of your appointment to test your connection and access to the telemedicine portal. Walk through the initial steps of joining the appointment on your own, make sure your internet bandwidth is sufficient, and test your audio and video capabilities.
  5. Come prepared. Ask questions. Come prepared to ask questions and engage directly with your physician just like you would at an in-person appointment. While your care team has access to your full health chart, including recent scans and labs, you should continue to feel empowered to speak up about your health history. Write down your concerns before the appointment and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  6. Expect the same quality of care. Telemedicine has its limits, but it’s safe to expect the same quality of care and engagement during your appointment that you would in a clinical setting. Physicians aim to provide quiet, one-on-one time during appointments, fully focused on you and your care.

Many Texas Oncology patients find telemedicine to be an efficient option for connecting with their care team. Under the current circumstances, telemedicine provides added benefits for patients, like the ability to have as many visitors as needed – an option that’s been temporarily restricted inside clinics due to COVID-19.

If you’re interested in virtual appointments but haven’t used them in the past, contact to your care team to discuss what’s right for you.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.