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How to Get the Most Out of a Medical Telephone Visit

April 14, 2020

By Deborah Ann Ballard, MD, MPH. Duke Integrative Medicine Primary Care.

The Coronavirus Pandemic has caused a massive upheaval in most of our daily routines, affecting everything from exercise, to hair care, to eating patterns, to performing our jobs. It has altered almost all human interactions in some way. It is also changing how we interact with our health care providers.

Deborah Ann Ballard

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 among their patients, health care providers are now conducting in-office, face to face evaluations with patients only if it is necessary and safe. Some people with chronic health problems may not be following up with their health care providers now, causing them to decompensate. People with acute illnesses and injuries may be trying to manage at home, delaying prompt care and leading to preventable complications.

Fortunately, Duke Health has rapidly ramped up its telehealth services, and now patients can schedule a telephone visit with a provider by calling that provider’s office. Video visits are available for urgent care visits as well.

Patients with poorly controlled diabetes, hypertension, congestive heart failure, asthma, depression, anxiety, and a host of other serious health problems need close monitoring. Frequent check-ins with their primary care physicians can help them stay healthy and avoid hospitalizations. Also, many minor acute illnesses and injuries can be well managed over the phone or a video visit.

So if you are due for a check-up with your health care provider, or if you have an acute illness, how do you participate in a telephone visit to get your medical needs properly addressed?

Duke Health has rapidly ramped up its telehealth services.

Here are some tips to follow:

  1. Prioritize your concerns. Make sure you report your most serious and pressing issues.
  2. If you are feeling unwell, note the onset, duration, and severity of your symptoms, as well as what you have already tried at home to treat yourself.
  3. If you can, check your vital signs. What is your weight, height, blood pressure, pulse rate, and temperature?
  4. If you have diabetes, report your blood sugar readings over the last 3-7 days.
  5. Report all the medications you are taking and note if you need any refills.
  6. Report any medication allergies.
  7. Have a note pad ready to write down your provider’s recommendations.
  8. If you have trouble remembering things, have someone listen to the visit with you on speakerphone.
  9. At the end of the conversation, repeat your provider’s instructions back so you are sure you understand what to do.
  10. Agree with your provider on the next time you will meet again, either in the office or on the phone.

You can get very high-quality health care in a telephone or video health visit if you are prepared. If you are due for a check-up or need advice on an acute problem, call your primary care physician today or log on to https://www.dukehealth.org/treatments/virtual-urgent-care.

Your health care providers are here to keep you healthy, now, more than ever.

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