Telehealth Checklist: Preparing for Your Virtual Doctor Visit

Telehealth Checklist: Preparing for Your Virtual Doctor Visit

By Krisendra Markham – Quality and Data Manager, FMH Coordinator

While telemedicine (delivering medical care at a distance) and telehealth (the electronic and telecommunications technologies and services used to provide telemedicine) have been around for decades, COVID-19 has made remote care a more popular option to help reduce exposure for patients and healthcare staff. 

Having a Telehealth Virtual Visit at SICHC

Your Southern Indiana Community Health Care (SICHC) telehealth appointment can take place on your landline phone or with your computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet.

SICHC offers video and smartphone visits through FollowMyHealth, a secure message and video platform available through the FollowMyHealth App on your smartphone (Apple or Android), or through your computer’s web browser. 

Although having a FollowMyHealth account isn’t required. Just call any of our four offices and a staff member will help schedule you for the type of appointment that best fits your needs. (If you have a FollowMyHealth account, you can schedule your appointment through that portal.) 

Once your appointment is scheduled, a staff member will call you before your appointment begins to ask some routine questions, and, if needed, give you additional instructions. Your care provider will then start the visit (phone call or video).

TIP: If you’re using the FollowMyHealth App, you can supply much of this information prior to the virtual appointment. For example, you can upload a close up photo of a skin rash. Here is a link to the FollowMyHealth YouTube channel to get familiar with the platform.

What to Do Before Your Visit

• Find a quiet space. You want to be able to focus on your appointment without interruptions from children, pets or roommates. A separate room, going to a friend’s house or even sitting in your car (while it’s parked!) can give you the privacy you need. 

• Prepare your device (for video). Close other applications to prevent distractions and keep your internet speed from slowing down. Then position your device so you are visible on the screen and the lighting in the room doesn’t shadow your face. 

• Review any instructions or emails from your provider. These can include how to log on to the FollowMyHealth app or gather specific health information such as your temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar, or weight. 

TIP: If you need to download an app, do it well before your visit so you can road-test it and address any problems. 

• Compile your concerns. Make a list of any symptoms, questions or worries you want to discuss during the appointment. Has anything changed since your last appointment? Are your vaccines up to date? 

• Collect your meds. Make a list of prescription medications as well as any OTC (over-the-counter) medications or supplements you take on a regular basis. Do you need refills for any prescriptions? Have the bottle available and double-check the dosage instructions.

• Have a notepad handy. During the visit, you’ll want to take notes so have pen and paper at hand. If you prefer to use a device, don’t try to take notes on the same one you’re using for the telehealth appointment, but have a second one ready.

• Gather your health data. This includes your health history, recent vaccines, other healthcare providers and the phone number and location of your local pharmacy. 

What to Do During Your Visit

• Stay focused. Don’t eat or drink, take calls or check your email during your visit. Your full attention should be on the visit, just as though you were in the examination room.

• Ask questions. If you aren’t sure what the doctor said (sometimes there can be a problem with the audio) or you need additional details, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. If the doctor orders bloodwork or other tests, confirm where they are to take place and when you can expect results.

• Review your treatment plan. Before you end the call, review the treatment plan your doctor recommended and ask what you should do if your problem persists.

What to Do After Your Visit

• Follow instructions. If you need to make another appointment (either virtual or in-person), change your current medication schedule or begin taking a new one, be sure to do so.

• Bring your notes. If your doctor advises you to see another physician or go to the ER, bring your notes from your telehealth call. 

• Track any changes. The doctor will want to know if your symptoms improve or if you notice any new changes.

Concerned About Insurance Coverage? 

Call your insurance provider beforehand to confirm coverage. Phone and video visits are billed to your insurance just like a regular office visit. If you do not have insurance, please call our Self Pay Department for more information at 812-723-7121 or visit our payment options webpage.

If you’re on Medicare or Medicaid, know that Medicare has temporarily expanded its coverage of telehealth services, but you should check with your state regarding Medicaid coverage for telehealth services. 

Other helpful information to know before your virtual doctor visit. 

This checklist with tips from Telehealth.HHS.gov and American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology will help you prepare so you can get the most from your appointment. You can also watch this video from the Hawaii State Department of Health Genomics Section to learn more about what to expect from a telehealth visit.

Posted by koch
5 Tips for COVID Mental Health

5 Tips for COVID Mental Health

By Teresa Faulkner, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

COVID-19 affects everyone, not just those who have caught the virus. Even if you haven’t been physically infected, you most likely have been affected by it emotionally in one way or another. And the longer the pandemic lasts, the more challenging it can be to find ways to cope with the feelings it has caused.

How you deal with COVID stress depends on your background, your level of social support and many other factors. But by using these five tips, you will be better equipped to deal with the current situation as well as other stressful times in the future.

  1. Acknowledge your emotions.

It’s important to recognize and acknowledge what you’re feeling. It’s natural to feel anxious, afraid, frustrated or lonely. And don’t be surprised if your feelings change over time. One day you may feel full of energy and the next day be unable to focus. Accept how you are feeling and practice good self-care: eating healthy foods, exercising and getting enough sleep.

Feeling helpless? Remind yourself that there are steps you can take to reduce the odds that you will contract the virus, such as following the CDC guidelines: wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, avoiding crowds and washing your hands.

  1. Take a breath and a break.

Take those deep breaths. It may sound like it’s too simple to really have any impact, but deep belly breathing not only gets oxygen into your body but can also slow your heartbeat and help stabilize your blood pressure. This counteracts the negative impact of stress breathing (short, shallow breaths) that can lead to symptoms like chest tightness, heart palpitations or dizziness.

Also, during the day, take periodic breaks and practice relaxation techniques. This will help generate a sense of calmness and relaxation.

  1. Connect with friends and family members.

One of the biggest challenges with the pandemic is that it has increased feelings of isolation. No longer can you meet a friend for dinner to talk over your problems, since doing so would put both of you at risk. However, there are ways you can share how you feel with those you trust. Phone calls or video chats can help replace in-person get-togethers. Even occasional walks (with masks and practicing social distancing) can make you feel less alone. Sometimes when you share your emotions, you find out others feel the same way, too.

  1. Develop a routine.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly disrupted your schedule and way of life, forcing you to try to adjust to a new “normal” that seems to change every day. When everything around you seems out of control, creating a routine can actually give you a sense of power. Make it simple and do-able—for example, eating and exercising at established times or setting small goals to work toward. While your COVID routine may bear no resemblance to the one you had pre-pandemic, the objective is to follow a schedule, which will then give you a feeling of security. An additional benefit is that by having a routine, you will also be taking better care of yourself.

  1. Shut off the info flow.

While you may think it’s a good idea to stay on top of all the latest virus developments, this can actually increase your stress level. Periodically, give yourself a mental break by shutting off the info flow. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to virus news stories, including those on social media. Instead, seek out pockets of calm: read a good book, go for a walk, listen to music or find activities that engage your mind and body.

And when you are ready to catch up on pandemic news, make sure that you are getting it from a reputable source like the CDC. You’ll have a better understanding of the risks and will be less likely to spread misinformation.

Let Us Help You

While COVID-19 is unlike any health crisis we have faced before, it’s important to remember that it is a temporary situation. Thanks to medical research, vaccines are now available to combat the virus and new treatments have been developed to help those who contract it.

However, if you have trouble coping with your emotions, develop physical ailments that last for several days, or turn to unhealthy coping mechanism such as drinking or drug use, then consider seeking professional help.

Here at Southern Indiana Community Health Care, our offices include a mental health counselor as part of our care team. This allows us to treat the whole individual, physically and mentally. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SICHC has expanded our behavioral health services to include virtual visits, offering the same high-quality care from your trusted provider. We have also added two virtual group sessions: substance use and anxiety.

For more information, contact one of our four offices, and a staff member will help schedule you for the type of appointment that best fits your needs. You can also request appointments through your FollowMyHealth account.

Trust our team to help you through the emotional challenges caused by COVID-19. Reach out to us. We’re here to help you. Remember, we are all in this together.

Posted by koch in Covid-19, Mental Health, Rural Healthcare

Pregnancy Tips During COVID

By Yolanda Yoder, MD, Family Practitioner and Member of the SICHC OB Team 

Pregnancy is a joyous time but pregnancy can be stressful for expectant mothers. This stress is natural. After all, during pregnancy, everything is changing: from the way you look to the way you feel physically and emotionally. And now with COVID-19 complicating nearly every aspect of your life, your stress level is may be even higher if you worry about being pregnant during a pandemic.

What steps can you personally take to lower stress levels and stay healthy during your pregnancy, in spite of COVID?

Eat Healthy

Good nutrition is important for both you and your baby. That means avoiding a lot of sweets and following a well-balanced diet with fruit and vegetables, dairy, good carbs with fiber (like oats and other whole grains) and healthy protein: nuts, chicken, fish and beans. Want help planning a healthy meal? Check out the guidelines at Choose My Plate

As for the old saying “eating for two,” the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends skipping that in favor of thinking of eating twice as healthy. Try practicing mindfulness in all your activities- including eating. Become aware of your habits, do your research, work with your provider, and let your focus rest on being healthy. 

Having twins? You only need about 600 extra calories extra a day to support your growing babies. Make them good calories and you won’t have to worry about overeating (and by the way empty calories tend to leave you hungry). Overeating during pregnancy means more stress on your body and more weight to lose after birth. Good meals and snacks leave you feeling satisfied and content—and healthy.

Exercise Regularly 

According to the American Pregnancy Association, just 30 minutes of mild to moderate exercise several days a week can help lower cortisol levels—the hormone that fosters anxiety. Exercise also eases constipation, reduces back pain and promotes healthy weight gain as well as improves your overall fitness, says ACOG. Even just simply taking a walk every day can make a difference, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Get Enough Sleep

Sometimes it can be a challenge to get good quality sleep as your body adjusts to the growing baby. While in the first trimester you may feel drowsier than normal and may even have to take naps, physical changes in the second and third trimester can make it harder to get the shut-eye you need. Between the kicks and the bathroom trips, you may find you’re just as tired when you get up in the morning as when you went to bed the night before.

Tips from the Sleep Foundation include reducing your fluid intake in the evening, avoiding spicy or acidic foods if you’re prone to heartburn, using pillows to support your body in a comfortable position and trying relaxation techniques to help calm your mind. ACOG offers a simple breathing technique to try: Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and breathe out for 8 seconds. Repeat three times. Still having trouble sleeping? Talk to your doctor if your insomnia persists.

Seek Social Support

Social support during this time is very important, but COVID-19 has conversely made it harder to spend time with friends and family members. Find ways to be with others while staying socially-distant—perhaps taking a “masked” walk together or even having virtual get-togethers, when you can talk about what is happening during your pregnancy. You can also reach out to other expecting and new mothers through online groups.

Monitor Your Stress Levels

In the same way you are watching how much you eat and exercise, you need to watch how much stress you’re exposing yourself to, and as much as possible, limit your contact to it. The March of Dimes recommends taking periodic breaks from watching or listening to the pandemic news stories or limiting your time on social media to help reduce anxiety. Experiencing extreme feelings of sadness, hopelessness or despair? Talk with your doctor or other health care professional so you can get the extra support you may need. 

For more advice, download the free fact sheet from the March of Dimes: COVID-19 Things to know if you’re pregnant—available in many languages.

Let Us Help You 

Now that you have some ideas in what you can do to stay healthy for your sake and the wellbeing of your baby, here’s what we at SICHC will be doing to make this wonderful time easier for you. 

We do everything we can to create a safe environment for our mothers and babies. We take special care to ensure that all six SICHC locations are frequently sanitized and cleaned according to CDC guidelines, and we limit the number of patients to keep interaction at a minimum. 

We’ve also temporarily opened an office on Cherry Street in Paoli for obstetrics and newborn care only, in addition to our pregnancy care services at our Shoals and Salem locations.

And when appropriate, we can schedule a virtual visit to reduce your in-office time. For more information about this option, contact one of our offices, and a staff member will help schedule you for the type of appointment that best fits your needs. You can also request appointments through your FollowMyHealth account.

We encourage you to trust our team to provide not just a safe environment, but also to walk with you through both the physical and the emotional challenges of your pregnancy.

This is a special time for you, your baby, and your family. Our experienced team stands ready to share and support your journey – contact us today.

Posted by koch in Covid-19, Obstetrics, Pregnancy