How Does a Telemedicine Appointment Work?

As the COVID-19 pandemic wages on, many have had to change the way they accomplish daily tasks. From grocery shopping to attending meetings to eating at restaurants, the pandemic has elevated the importance of online communication and connectivity to new heights. Even appointments with our doctors have shifted to an online environment, and “telemedicine” has become a familiar word and a welcome alternative to an in-person office visit.

Early in the pandemic, Baptist Health’s team of primary care physicians used telemedicine to evaluate patients’ symptoms for COVID-19. Now, as more people have begun again to seek doctors’ advice about other illnesses, managing chronic diseases and resuming well visits, Baptist Health Primary Care doctors offer telemedicine visits, when appropriate, along with in-person office appointments.

Coren Menendez, M.D.

Coren Menendez, M.D., a family medicine physician with Kendall Breeze, part of Baptist Health Primary Care, answers the most common questions about how telemedicine appointments work.

How do I make a telemedicine appointment with BaptistHealth Primary Care?

Dr. Menendez says it’s as easy as calling one of the Baptist Health Primary Care offices, located conveniently throughout South Florida.

“My current patients, or patients who want an appointmentwith me, simply call my office to schedule an appointment,” she said. “I, andmy colleagues at Baptist Health Primary Care, typically have one day a weekwhere we conduct virtual visits. Our staff offer these appointments when thevisit can be appropriately handled online.”

What types of appointments can be handled online?

Virtual visits can be used effectively to evaluate respiratoryinfections, such as flu, COVID-19 and the common cold, Dr. Menendez notes. Shealso uses online visits to assess some skin conditions, asthma-relatedbreathing problems, conjunctivitis or pink eye, minor cuts or orthopedicinjuries, and mental illness.

Dr. Menendez says some conditions, though, warrant in-person visits, because she must physically examine a patient. These include evaluations for earaches, complex rashes, pelvic or abdominal pain, genital or rectal conditions, breast exams and complex orthopedic injuries.

“These require me to get a close look at or touch thepatient to understand what might be going on,” she said.

Can my annual wellness exam be online?

For patients who have been seen in her office in the past orfor any patients who don’t have any serious health concerns, Dr. Menendez canuse telemedicine to conduct their annual wellness exam. She can order lab work,imaging studies and prescription medications just as she does during a regularoffice visit. Of course, testing requires patients to visit a lab or diagnosticimaging center at another time, but Dr. Menendez will receive the results andgo over them with her patients just as she does with in-person visits.

What happens at my scheduled appointment time?

Once a telemedicine appointment is scheduled, any necessarypaperwork will be sent electronically by the Baptist Health Primary Carescheduling team along with instructions on how to fill out the forms and returnthem. Then, shortly before the scheduled appointment, a medical assistant willcall to go over your medical history and current concerns. You will be providedwith a link for the secure, online visit.

At your appointment time, click the link and when the doctoris ready, he or she will appear on the screen of your computer, tablet orsmartphone through a secure audio and video connection. If any additionaltests, labs or prescriptions are necessary, the doctor will order them, andadditional instructions will be sent to you following the visit. Dr. Menendezsays most telemedicine visits last between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on thecomplexity of the concern.

Does insurance cover telemedicine visits?

While telemedicine began to gain traction prior to thepandemic, the need for care during periods of quarantine accelerated insurancecompanies’ acceptance of online visits.

“We bill for virtual visits the same way we do for in-officevisits,” Dr. Menendez said. “If your regular office visit has a $30 copay,that’s what we’ll ask you to pay after your online appointment. There’s nodifference in payment.”

What happens if we lose the connection during the onlineappointment?

While rare, connections are sometimes lost duringappointments, Dr. Menendez admits. When that happens, she says, she tries toreach the patient through the chat function to re-establish the connection. Ifthat’s unsuccessful, she calls the patient on the phone number provided, soit’s important to give an accurate phone number when making the appointment.And for patients without computers or Internet connectivity, Dr. Menendez saysphone appointments can be conducted.

Tips for Successful Virtual Visits

To ensure the best possible experience with your virtualvisit, Dr. Menendez recommends the following tips:

  • Be sure you have a strong online connection inthe location where you hold the appointment.
  • Set up in a quiet and private location, free ofdistraction or interruption.
  • Refrain from driving during your appointment.
  • If you do not see the doctor on the screen withinfive minutes of your scheduled appointment, call the office and alert thestaff.

Patient Privacy Is Key

Just as important, if not more important, than patientsbeing in a quiet, private location during the appointment, Dr. Menendez says patientsshould understand that she and her colleagues adhere to stringent privacy guidelinesas well.

“When I hold virtual visits, I am all alone either in anexam room or in my office with the door closed. I wear headphones so no one canhear the patient, and I position myself with my back against a wall to preventanyone from being able to see the patient on my screen,” she said. Because shemay have to have a patient show her something closely through the camera, shestresses the importance of patients being in a private location. She also notesthat to maintain the utmost privacy, there is no way for the appointments to berecorded.  

‘A Safe Way to Manage Health’

Dr. Menendez says that her patients who have taken advantageof virtual visits have reported being grateful to have an alternative way tospeak with doctors about their health.

“As a primary care physician, my goal is to treat mypatients as a whole,” she said. “My fear at the beginning of the pandemic wasthat patients would delay taking care of their health concerns and not managetheir chronic conditions. Thankfully, telemedicine has provided a quick,efficient and safe way to manage health. I’m able to see my patients and makesure they stay as healthy as possible.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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