Due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many people, especially those living with ALS, have needed to change their routines in several ways including pivoting their medical appointments to telehealth visits. A recent article published in Brain & Life Magazine shared excellent tips on how to best prepare for a telehealth visit. We have adapted the article to meet the needs of our Les Turner ALS family.
Here is how you and your care team can make the most of your virtual visit with our Lois Insolia ALS Clinic at the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine:
SETTING UP THE APPOINTMENT
- You will be contacted by Clinic staff approximately one week prior to your scheduled visit
- Have your insurance information handy
- At this time, the modality for your visit will be determined — telephone or video. You will receive an appointment link from the scheduling team through “My Chart” or via email.
- If you would like a family member from a different location to join your visit, please let the scheduling staff know at this time.
Keep in mind that, just like in-person visits, the Physicians may be running a little behind and/or dealing with emergency situations. Please know they will call as close to the scheduled time as possible. Your physician may be calling from their home or cell phones and their numbers may show up as blocked or as an 800 number.
- When it’s time for your visit, find a quiet space with minimal interruptions close to your router or computer (the closer you are to your wi-fi router, the better the connection will be).
- Turn off the TV and any noisy devices, including window heating or cooling units and ceiling fans, if possible.
- If possible, sit in front of a solid-colored wall rather than a patterned or cluttered background or a window.
- Your doctor needs to get a good and clear look at you so position any light in front or to the side
- If you’re using a phone or tablet instead of a laptop, place it in a stable position or a holder or lean it against something heavy rather than holding it.
WHAT TO HAVE ON-HAND
- Draft a list of all your medications, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements, or gather the actual medications and place them where you’ll take the call or video visit. On every visit, you’ll want to confirm with your doctor exactly what, when, and how you are taking everything.
- If you have the ability and equipment at home to do so, you may want to be prepared with a current weight, blood pressure or oxygen level.
- Prepare a list of your concerns or questions ahead of time and place it in the spot where you will take the call or video visit. Your doctor will have questions, too, so you may not get through your entire list, but identifying two to four main concerns will help ensure that the visit is productive and helpful.
- If you use Non-Invasive Ventilation (bipap, Astral, Trilogy), it’s a good idea to have your machine and mask nearby should you need to refer to it for any reason.
- Having a family member or caregiver with you is always a good idea and it’s especially helpful for telehealth visits.
DURING YOUR TELEHEALTH VISIT
- At the start of the telehealth visit, give your telephone number to the doctor as a backup in case of disconnection. Be aware that there may be a delay in the audio on a video call, so make sure one person is finished before the other one speaks.
- Your doctor will also ask about changes in your symptoms since your last visit. He or she will evaluate whether your symptoms are getting better or worse, which will inform decisions about your treatment. Finally, your doctor will make recommendations and develop a treatment plan.
- Just like an in-person visit, you will have the opportunity to meet with other team members such as a Speech-Language Pathologist, Dietician, Occupational Therapist and others involved in your plan of care.
- Ask if you should write down your doctor’s recommendations or plan, or if they will be mailed, emailed, or sent to you by a health portal. If you’re writing it down, ask if you can read the instructions back to make sure you have everything right. This allows the doctor to correct any misunderstandings and make sure you are both in agreement.
- Don’t forget to schedule your next visit with the Lois Insolia ALS Clinic at the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine!
Les Turner ALS Foundation Team