You are used to talking to your friends through text, social media, email and video apps such as Skype, Facetime or Zoom. Now you can ‘see’ your doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional using different digital technologies. This is known as a Virtual Consultation.
This new way of seeing your doctor and other health providers is part of keeping physical distance from each other as much as possible – something we need to be doing to help keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virtual healthcare provides a way of having an appointment with your doctor, practice nurse and other health providers without seeing them in person.
It might involve:
• sending messages via your patient portal – MyIndici
• emailing, texting or having a phone call with your doctor, practice nurse or other health provider
• having a video call where you can see your doctor, nurse, or other health provider and talk about your condition just as you would if you were in the same room.
Benefits include:
• removing the risk of catching or spreading germs
• reducing time and costs involved with travelling to an appointment
• not having to leave the house when you are feeling unwell.
Here are some commonly asked questions about what you can expect from your Virtual Consultation:
Do I need to pay?
You will be asked to pay for the health provider’s time. On most occasions this will be the normal consultation fee that is currently charged.
Will my information be secure and safe?
Yes, your health provider will keep your information secure and safe and will treat the information you share with them in the same way as they normally would if you were to see them in person.
What if I need a physical examination?
As your health professional will not be able to examine you, sometimes you may be asked to examine yourself. For example, you may be asked to feel your tummy for where it is sore. Sometimes it can help to have someone else you are comfortable with do this for you. This could be a family member, a friend or another health professional.
What if I need my blood pressure, heart rate and temperature measured?
If you have your own equipment, you may be asked to take your own blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. Taking your own pulse can be quite easy. You can find it in your neck or in your wrist close to the base of your thumb and time it over one minute.
At the completion of your Virtual Consultation if your health provider determines it would be best for you to be seen in person, they will then arrange a time for you to present to the clinic.
Taking photos for virtual consultations
Photos can help your GP or another diagnose skin and other health conditions in a virtual consultation. The photos can be kept in your medical record and may help with managing your health condition over time.
If you need a specialist appointment, the photos can be sent to the specialist. The specialist may also be able to see you in a virtual consultation.
Not every condition can be diagnosed with photos. Your healthcare provider may need to see you face to face so they can examine you.
How should I prepare for my telehealth consult?
1. If you are having a scheduled appointment you are likely to be sent a link by email (sometimes by text). You will need to click on this link. Take care that the link is the one you were expecting from your healthcare professional.
2. Make sure you are in a comfortable and private place.
3. It is best if you have one to use a hands-free device. If you have a smart phone, find a way to prop it up so that you can move about.
4. Make sure that you have tested out your audio. You may need to have a set of earphones to hear well.
5. You may want to have a family/whānau member or friend with you. That’s fine – just tell the health professional when you join that they are there.
6. Write a list of what you want to talk about and have a pen and paper handy to write anything down if you need to.
7. Have all of your medicines with you, either in a list or in the packaging.
8. Make sure that there is no one else streaming information from linked-in devices while you are having your consult, eg, if someone is watching a video on the wi-fi network you are using, your video may be poor quality.
Telehealth services are secure and the same levels of privacy and security apply to this type of consultation as they normally would for your normal doctor visits.