How to Make Telehealth Visits Better for Nurses and Doctors

How to Make Telehealth Visits Better for Nurses and Doctors

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, telehealth visits conducted via video calls are becoming more common than ever, and more insurance companies are covering them, too. The annual physical you once had in a doctor’s office may now be taking place over your webcam instead. You may be wondering how you can make the most of your telehealth appointment and make it easier for your nurse, doctor or other professional in cotton scrubs. Here are seven things that you can do to improve the experience on both sides.

1. Know what you want to talk about.

Just as with an in-person visit, you should come to your telehealth appointment prepared to discuss your health concerns. Make a list of everything that you want to cover, and prioritize them from most to least important. If you’ve been exhibiting symptoms, track them in the weeks leading up to the appointment and keep a log of them so you can note any trends over time. Have your notes with you, as well as a working pen or another way to jot down things during the appointment. This will maximize your appointment time and help your doctor or nurse treat you more efficiently.

2. Test the telehealth service beforehand.

If you’ve never had a telehealth appointment before, download the software or create an account and log in before your appointment begins. You won’t be able to actually video chat your provider until the appointment starts, but you can familiarize yourself with the platform and make sure that your camera is working. Depending on what service your provider uses, you might also be able to message your providers, schedule an appointment without having to call and more. If you have any trouble with the platform, contact tech support and try to get it resolved before the day of the appointment.

3. Get a strong internet connection.

Video calls require a strong internet connection, so run a speed test to ensure that your internet connection can support your video call without dropping. If your internet connection is weak, you might need to ask other people in your household to refrain from streaming videos and other activities that take up bandwidth when you’re in your telehealth appointment. If your Wifi is still weak and you’re the only person on it, you might need to look into upgrading your plan, getting a better router or installing a signal booster to extend the range of the Wifi.

4. Choose a quiet room.

Selecting the right room is equally important to having a good internet connection. Choose a quiet space with a door that can close so you won’t be interrupted. If you have pets, put them in their kennels or a separate room for the duration of the call. Let your partners, roommates, and children know that you’ll be on a call and that they shouldn’t interrupt you. Make sure that the room is clean, double-check that the background behind you is plain and professional (a blank wall is fine) and confirm that you have good lighting so your provider will be able to see you clearly.

5. Log in early.

Don’t wait until the last minute to log into the platform in case you have any unforeseen technical difficulties. Five to 10 minutes before your appointment is supposed to start, get set up in your room and go ahead and log in. There may be a virtual waiting room where you can chill. If not, you can just sit on the platform. Try not to get distracted by social media or other websites. You don’t want to miss the start of your appointment! If you have any medical devices your provider will need to look at, set those out on the table so you can easily access them during the appointment.

6. Volunteer to offer feedback.

Many health care providers have only recently installed telehealth platforms, and may still be working out the kinks. You may receive a survey after your appointment asking you how the telehealth visit went. If you’d like to help your providers improve the platforms, be sure to fill that out and let them know how it went from the patient side. If they aren’t sending out a survey, you can suggest the idea to them, or offer to provide more informal feedback via email or another way. After all, the whole point of health care is to improve patient outcomes–so as the patient, your opinion matters.

7. Know when you need an in-person visit.

Telehealth is a great technology, and it offers many advantages over in-person visits. However, sometimes you simply need to see a medical professional in person. An emergency is an emergency, so if you have sudden chest pain, weakness on one side of the face or body, or sudden difficulty breathing, you need to go to the emergency room or call 911 immediately. Your doctor may also prescribe some in-person visits, such as bloodwork and other tests, that cannot be conducted virtually. Use common sense and schedule an appointment in the office when it can’t be taken care of virtually.

A nurse can’t listen to your lungs with their stethoscope via a telehealth visit, but there are many positive aspects of virtual appointments. Telehealth keeps both providers and patients safe from a contagion, and increases access to care for patients who have trouble leaving the house for one reason or another. If you’re new to telehealth, or just looking to have a good experience during your next appointment, follow the seven tips outlined here. Your provider will appreciate all the prep work that you did and you’ll be way more likely to have a positive telehealth appointment.

Shattering Male Nursing Stereotypes

Shattering Male Nursing Stereotypes

As if nursing wasn’t already tough enough, male nurses have to contend with a lot of negative, gender-based stereotypes whenever they don their cotton scrubs. These stereotypes make it more difficult for male nurses to do their jobs well, especially if patients are suspicious of their competence just because they’re male. Here are six male nursing stereotypes that need to be shattered.

1. All nurses are women.

While it’s true that women make up a very high proportion of active nurses, there are some men who work as nurses, too. Approximately 89 percent of nurses are women, and 11 percent are men. While this isn’t a high number, it does prove that not all nurses are women. Other numbers make it clear why nursing is an attractive profession regardless of your gender. The 2019 median pay for registered nurses was $73,300 per year, much higher than the median annual wage for all workers, which was $39,810. If you’re a man looking for a well-paying and fast-growing career in health care, nursing might be the ticket.

2. Nursing is an inherently female role.

Men are expected to be ambitious and career-driven, while women are expected to be caring and nurturing. As a result, caregiving activities are often associated with women’s roles. This includes child care, cooking, household chores, and tending to the sick. Some patients may assume that men lack the nature and bedside manner to be good nurses simply because of their gender, which just isn’t true. This stereotype is most apparent in OB-GYN specialties, since many female patients are uncomfortable with having a male nurse and don’t believe they can provide the care that they need.

3. Male nurses are failed doctors…

Since most nurses are female and most doctors are male, some people make the leap to conclude that any male nurses must have tried to make it as doctors, but couldn’t cut it. This stereotype is harmful because it treats nursing as inferior to being a physician, when, in fact, both roles are necessary to patient care. Without nurses to actually take care of patients and execute the day to day duties, doctors would be able to heal a lot fewer patients. Maybe a few people decided to enroll in nursing school because they couldn’t get into medical school, but the vast majority of nurses—both male and female—have deliberately chosen nursing.

4. …or studying to become doctors.

Some patients will also assume that any men wearing stretch scrubs must be doctors in training, a corollary to the above stereotype. They may ask male nurses how long they’re planning to work as a nurse before they become a doctor, or ask when they will be going to medical school. Again, this stereotype is fueled by the belief that nursing is inferior to practicing medicine. If patients make these kinds of statements, try to use it as a teaching moment to educate them about how nursing is not a gender-specific field and explain why nursing is just as legitimate as being a physician.

5. Men become nurses because it’s easier.

This stereotype is also related to the idea that being a doctor is superior to being a nurse. In this case, people believe that being a nurse is easier than becoming a physician and, therefore, assume that any male nurse was too lazy to try for a more rigorous health care career. Of course, as all nurses know, nursing is a physically, mentally and emotionally demanding career. No matter your gender, it takes resilience and toughness to make it as a nurse—and it is not automatically easier than any other health care profession.

6. Male nurses are a joke.

Media is to blame for this stereotype. Male nurses are either not shown at all, or they’re portrayed to be the butt of the joke. For instance, in the 2000 comedy Meet the Parents, Greg Focker (played by Ben Stiller) is a male nurse, and there are running gags throughout the movie that center on making fun of Greg precisely because he is a male nurse and doesn’t work in a more “masculine” profession. Treating male nurses as a joke, rather than taking them seriously, further contributes to stereotypes and undermines the serious work that nurses of all genders do.

These male nursing stereotypes harm male nurses and the patients they’re trying to treat. Help to do your part to dispel these myths by working to educate people whenever they express these stereotypes.

9 Tips for Nursing Students Taking Online Classes

9 Tips for Nursing Students Taking Online Classes

Whether your classes were newly moved online due to coronavirus, or you’ve been enrolled in an online class from the get-go, nursing students all over the world have suddenly found themselves taking classes remotely. To help with the adjustment, here are our nine top tips for acing your online nursing classes.

1. Don’t assume online is easier.

Just because you can wear sweatpants, it doesn’t mean that online classes are a walk in the park. Plus, if you dress the part and wear your nursing scrubs, you’ll get into the nursing mindset. Some people make the mistake of assuming they can coast through an online class, believing that it will be easier than an in-person class. While online classes are certainly different from in-person ones, they’re not easier, just hard in a different way. Believing that you can slack off in your online classes purely because they are online will quickly lead to a failing grade. Taking it seriously from the beginning is the best recipe for success.

2. Get the equipment you need to succeed.

No, we’re not talking about clinical supplies. Take stock of what technology you currently have and what you might need to invest in. You’ll most likely need a reliable computer and other tools such as an external monitor, a mouse, and a keyboard as well. Test your internet connection and make sure that it can handle steaming lectures, video calls, and other high capacity tasks—the last thing you want is your internet cutting out in the middle of a quiz. If your internet isn’t up to the task, you might need to upgrade your plan or get a new router.

3. Embrace the possibilities of technology.

Online classes may be new and exciting territory for many people. They offer many fantastic possibilities for interactive learning that simply aren’t possible inside a physical classroom. In fact, many in-person classes still assign work that must be done online prior to class because the interactivity element of online programs can’t be reproduced. Online classes also allow you to connect with a much broader range of people from many different geographic areas, expanding your nursing network.

4. Participate digitally.

The words “class participation” probably conjure up images of raising your hand in class and speaking out loud to the group. While participation is definitely a part of online classes, it takes a different form. Usually, it means group forums where students host discussions on specific topics. It’s not the same as talking in person, but this format can actually be advantageous for quiet people who hate having to come up with comments on the fly. Due to the asynchronous nature of these message boards, you can read the discussion, take time to think it over, and post your comment when you’re ready.

5. Create a work from home space.

Even if you like to work from coffee shops or libraries, odds are that you’ll end up completing at least some of your classwork from home. If at all possible, try to create a work from home area outside your bedroom (you don’t want to associate schoolwork with your sleeping space). If that’s not possible, then at least set up a desk and chair so you’re not working from your bed. Try to place it near a window so you can take advantage of natural light. Be sure to set up some additional lamps, too, in case you end up working a lot at night.

6. Manage your time well.

Time management is one of the trickiest things for students to master during an online course, especially if the classes are pre-recorded and can be watched on-demand. Some people are distracted very easily, especially when working at home. They have every intention of watching that anatomy lecture and then end up spending an hour cleaning the house and folding laundry. Set aside blocks of time to work on your online classes and mark them off in your calendar, just like you would with an in-person class. Let your roommates or family know that you’re in school and ask them not to disturb you unless it’s an emergency.

7. Aim to turn your assignments in early.

Speaking of time management, turning in assignments early can help a lot with that. For in-person classes, you have to wait for the appointed day to turn in a physical paper. That’s not as much of a consideration for online classes. It’s a good idea to set a goal for yourself to turn in each assignment 1-2 days in advance. Even if you fall behind, which will happen eventually, you’ll still have that cushion built in so your assignment won’t truly be late.

8. Back up your work.

You should be doing this regardless of whether your nursing school classes are online or in person, but it’s doubly important for digital classes. Each week, if not each day, back up your work to an external hard drive as well as a cloud storage service such as Box, Dropbox, or Google Drive. If you must fill out quizzes or essays online, consider writing it in a separate document and then paste it into the field so you don’t lose your work if the submission doesn’t go through.

9. Ask for help.

Just because you’re physically alone in your house while you watch lectures doesn’t mean that you don’t have resources available to help. Your instructors should be able to help you via email, phone, or even video chat, and you also have your classmates to lean on. You might want to consider forming an online study group that meets regularly during Zoom calls to keep each other accountable. Don’t forget to explore any other resources offered for your classes, such as digital libraries.

Whether you’re taking online nursing classes by choice or not, digital courses are a new reality for today’s nursing students. Follow these nine strategies to knock your online nursing classes out of the park.

Everything You Need to Know About Telehealth

Everything You Need to Know About Telehealth

If you hadn’t heard of telehealth before the coronavirus pandemic, you probably know about it now. Medical providers are trying to move as many of their appointments to virtual means as they can. While telehealth options have been around for years, this is the first time it’s been implemented on such a wide scale. Since many people want to know exactly what telehealth is and how it works, we answer all your telehealth FAQs. Ever wonder about security concerns and how providers diagnose symptoms like the coronavirus via video call? We’ve got you covered.

What types of telehealth are available?

There are three main types of telehealth interactions that you might have with your provider. They are:

  1. Live consultations, which are usually held over video conferencing.
  2. Asynchronous messaging, where you send your provider text or pictures and they respond as they are able.
  3. Remote monitoring, when the patient uses at-home devices to measure vitals such as blood glucose and then sends them to a provider for an examination.

A telehealth appointment usually refers to the first option, i.e. scheduling a video call with your provider (white lab coats and nursing scrubs not required), but your telehealth interactions will usually span all three categories.

Is telehealth secure?

Given all the privacy concerns surrounding technology, many people are understandably concerned about the security of their virtual visits. The security will vary depending on the service(s) that your provider uses. If your doctor is part of a larger hospital network, they may contract with a major telehealth provider or use a proprietary system, which should be more secure. Smaller practices may use more general-purpose virtual meeting software, such as Skype, which usually have looser privacy restrictions. Investigate the privacy policies of the services that your provider asks you to use, and you can also ask your provider about implementing security features such as encrypted data transmission.

Is telehealth covered by insurance?

This depends on your insurance, your provider, and the telehealth system they use. In general, telehealth services provided directly by a doctor or a hospital are more likely to be covered, though not always. Even if the virtual visit is covered by insurance, patients may still have a co-pay or another charge. If it’s not covered, patients can choose to pay out of pocket for the entire visit. Common per visit fees range from $50 to $80, while other platforms charge an annual membership fee.  If you’re on Medicare or Medicaid, thanks to some recent changes, Medicare will cover telehealth services and Medicare Advantage plans may waive or reduce cost-sharing.

How can I find a telehealth provider?

If you already have a provider, check with them first to see if they have existing telehealth or upcoming telehealth options due to coronavirus. Depending on what insurance you have, you might also be able to filter your provider search on the insurance portal to only show providers that provide telehealth options. Some telehealth service websites, such as Teladoc Health and MD Live, will let you search for providers on their website. If you find doctors via the latter route, you’ll need to contact their offices to see if they accept your insurance before you make an appointment.

What are some advantages of telehealth?

Telehealth offers several benefits over regular appointments. For one, it protects both patients and providers from the transmission of germs (very important in the age of coronavirus). It also eliminates the need to secure transportation and elder or child care. Plus, it reduces the time spent in waiting rooms and on the road. Telehealth appointments save patients and providers money as well as time. They also give providers more flexibility to set their own schedules and schedule appointments when it’s most convenient for everybody involved.

What are some disadvantages of telehealth?

However, telehealth does have some drawbacks. Obviously, some visits simply need to be completed in person. Patients can’t just grab a stethoscope and listen to their own vitals. There can also be issues of access, as not everyone has a smartphone or laptop and a stable internet connection, which are necessary for video consultations. The inconsistency of insurance coverage for patients and reimbursement for providers can also cause headaches and complicate what would ordinarily be a simple visit.

Can I get a prescription via a telehealth appointment?

Yes, doctors can use telehealth to write or renew prescriptions. If you just need a refill on an existing prescription, you might be able to request it by messaging your doctor and eliminating the need to book and pay for an appointment. If it’s a new prescription, or you’re not sure what medication you need, you’ll probably need to book a quick appointment for a diagnosis. They’ll still have to call in the prescription at a local pharmacy, so you’ll have to venture out to pick it up or arrange to get it delivered.

Can coronavirus be diagnosed via a telehealth appointment?

Because the symptoms can vary so widely from patient to patient, and also overlap somewhat with those of other common infectious diseases (including the flu), the only way to confirm that you definitely have coronavirus is to get a test that involves taking a swab in person. However, you can use a telehealth appointment to discuss your symptoms with your doctors and determine whether you need a test or if you’re just suffering from allergies. In fact, many hospitals have set up a coronavirus hotline specifically for this purpose. Your doctors can also talk you through quarantine best practices and how to keep those around you safe.

If you need to talk to your doctor right now, odds are that you’ll be making your visit virtually via telehealth services. Keep these FAQs in mind to make sure that your visit is covered by insurance and your privacy is secure. Welcome to the future of medicine!

9 Benefits of Remote Health Care

9 Benefits of Remote Health Care

Telehealth has slowly been making inroads over the past couple of decades, and the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has only escalated its adoption. Doctors have been told to hold every visit possible remotely in order to cut down on the chances of spreading the virus between patients and medical providers.

While in-person doctor’s visits have been the standard for generations, telehealth offers several benefits that in-person appointments simply can’t match. In fact, telehealth can reduce costs and barriers to access for both doctors and patients. If you’re new to the idea of telehealth, here are nine benefits that you need to know about remote health care.

For Patients

1. You don’t have to worry about transportation.

Getting to and from the doctor’s office can be a large barrier. Even people with reliable vehicles have to make arrangements with their households to use the car, as well as taking both travel time and gas into account. Patients who use public transportation or ride-sharing options have to account for many more unknowns, including unreliable transit schedules and routes that may not take them directly to the doctor’s office. By letting you stay in your home, telehealth visits make it easier to talk to your doctor and increase access to care.

2. You don’t have to find elder or child care.

For adults serving as primary caregivers, getting away from the house can be tough, even if they’re not officially employed. In that case, they have to arrange for their partner to stay home, or if that’s not possible, find or hire other people to watch their children or parents while they go to the doctor. This added expense and hassle serves as a barrier that keeps people from getting to the doctor’s office. Remote health appointments remove the need to find elder or child care for dependents, making it easier to virtually visit the doctor.

3. You’ll waste less time.

Time is a major consideration in scheduling and attending doctor’s appointments. You have to factor in not only the length of the appointment itself, but also transportation time and time spent in the waiting room. Between everything, many patients must sacrifice two or three hours of their day just to talk with their doctor for 15 minutes (or less!). Some people simply can’t get that much time off of work, which makes them reluctant to visit the doctor. Remote appointments eliminate transportation time and significantly reduce delays as well. No more wasting an hour in the waiting room while the minutes tick past your appointed time.

4. It reduces your chances of catching an illness.

We’ve all had the experience of sitting in a waiting room during cold and flu season, listening to other patients around us coughing and coughing and coughing. Simply due to the concentration of sick people, in-person doctor’s offices increase the odds of spreading germs. Plus, if you’re already visiting the doctor because you’re sick, your compromised immune system can make you more vulnerable to picking up more germs. Taking appointments from the comfort of your own home keeps you safe and prevents you from spreading any potentially contagious illness to other people.

5. It’s increasingly covered by insurance.

More and more insurance companies are covering telehealth visits, and as the cascading effects of coronavirus encourage more processes to move online, this trend will only continue in the future. While once considered a luxury, remote doctor visits will soon become as mundane as visiting a typical office for both you and your insurance company.

For Providers

6. You can see more patients.

Because of the increased efficiencies and reduced downtime between appointments, telehealth systems allow you to see more patients that you otherwise would not. Some physicians also use the time they would have spent commuting to extend their office hours, letting them see even more patients. For example, some patients who can’t get off work during the day might be able to hop on a call with you at night for half an hour. (And none of them will know if you’re wearing pajama pants under your white lab coat.)

7. You don’t have to leave your house.

Many of the same benefits that apply to patients are also a boon to physicians. Staying at home eliminates health care providers’ commutes, which saves time and money that they can use to see more patients. Telehealth doesn’t just limit patients’ exposure to germs. It also limits physicians’ exposure, which keeps them healthy and eliminates the chance that they might carry germs between patients. Finally, telehealth visits can ease the burden on physicians and their families who are also caring for children or relatives at home.

8. It reduces costs.

By increasing the number of patients and decreasing overhead expenses, telehealth visits save money. These savings are especially important for physicians who own their own practices instead of working for a big hospital. While you might need to initially invest in setting up or subscribing to a secure telehealth system, remote visits will quickly pay for themselves as they become more popular. In fact, telehealth might actually open new opportunities to bill for activities that were previously uncompensated, such as follow up phone calls.

9. It improves patient engagement and reduces no-shows.

A doctor’s primary goal is to improve patient outcomes, and telehealth can accomplish this on several levels. Unfortunately, the patients most in need of doctor visits are often the ones who struggle the most with getting time off work, finding elder or child care and securing reliable transportation to and from the doctor’s office. Telehealth can help break down these barriers and result in a wide variety of benefits like reducing no-shows and diverting unnecessary visits to the ER. Ultimately, all these benefits ease the strain on the whole health care system.

Now, don’t hang up your nursing scrubs quite yet. There will always be a need for in-person doctors’ visits. But incorporating a telehealth option into your practice can benefit both you and your patients greatly.