How The Visually Impaired Prepare for a Telemedical Appointment

As the country continues to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, more doctors are moving toward telemedicine and remote appointments when possible. Follow up visits, answering basic medical questions, new problems or reoccurring problems that are not an emergency and questions about medication are all examples of things that can warrant a telemedical appointment. Additionally, these types of appointments will keep both doctor and patient in close communication, while avoiding further health risks. Those with a vision impairment are no exception and should know how to prepare for these virtual visits. For a successful telemedical appointment, read these tips and suggestions so that you or your loved one may attend from the comfort of your own home.

Preparing for the appointment

First, check your medical insurance to be sure your plan will cover a telemedical visit. Some plans–like Medicare and Medicaid–are temporarily covering these types of visits because of COVID-19. Next, read any instructions from your medical provider and make sure you understand what is asked of you.  For example, you might have to download  Zoom in advance or go to a web portal and create a login account. Check your computer and/or smartphone equipment for functionality and accessibility. You will need a working camera, speakers and/or headphones, a good internet connection and enough battery for the entire visit. If you are facing challenges, reach out to your doctor’s office and request a telephone appointment instead.

Day of the appointment

On the day of the appointment, pick a quiet location in your home and let family/friends know you have a medical appointment and need privacy.  Be sure the room is well lit and do not sit with your back to a bright window, because this will make it hard to see your face. Take measurements such as weight, blood pressure and temperature prior to the visit. Jot down questions using your note taking devices like braille, vision impairment aids or assistive technology tools. Have medications handy to discuss with the nurse or doctor. You can show the bottle of medications in the camera for reference. If a loved one will be attending the appointment with you, let the doctor know in advance so staff can prepare just as they would for an in-person visit. 

During the appointment

Know where the camera is on your device and angle it properly. Keep it at eye level for a natural view and speak clearly in a conversational tone. Dress is casual, comfortable clothing; your doctor will see you and depending on the type of appointment, might want to observe physical movements. Before ending your visit, be sure to clarify next steps for follow up appointments: discuss whether another telemedical or in person appointment is needed and ask about ordering prescriptions if necessary.

Benefits and challenges of a telemedical appointment

There are many benefits to telemedical appointments for people with a vision impairment. One of the biggest is not having to deal with transportation challenges, like finding a ride or paying for it. Telemedical visits also allow for the continuation of healthcare in times of quarantine and social distancing. These appointments are great for people living in rural or isolated communities who don’t live close to a doctor or medical facility. 

The drawbacks of telemedical appointments are not suitable for every medical issue and lack parts of a physical exam, which could make an accurate diagnosis more difficult. Some might find challenges in accessing the Internet, mobile devices or telehealth apps depending on circumstances and location. High speed Internet might not be available in some rural areas. Insurance can vary and might not cover the visit. Additionally, there are concerns about privacy and data security being compromised. 

It is more than likely that telemedical visits will continue to grow in popularity. Even with the drawbacks, they are a valuable way for doctors to care for patients and limit exposure. Accessing your technology is a big part of a telemedical appointment. To prepare for these appointments, contact Outlook’s Adaptive Technology Training program for assistance.

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