Q&A with Dr. Saurabha Bhatnagar: Tips to make the most of telehealth

Telehealth can be a great way to get the care you need, particularly in a time of COVID-19, but if you’ve never used it before, it’s understandable that you might feel a bit hesitant. 

If you’re thinking about trying telehealth, you may be wondering how you can put it to the best use. Dr. Saurabha Bhatnagar, chief medical officer and head of technology & performance at UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, is passionate about the transformation of health care through technology. He shares his tips and insights on getting the most out of your telehealth experience. 

Who can use telehealth?

Most people may be able to access their care virtually. Telehealth can be used for common appointments like a doctor’s visit for the cold or flu and medication renewals. Your doctor could also meet with you online to discuss chronic conditions you may have, like diabetes, and ensure you’re meeting your health goals. When you contact your clinic for an appointment, ask if it can be done virtually.

Can my doctor diagnose me without doing an in-person exam?

In many cases, yes. If your doctor knows your medical history and symptoms, she or he can diagnose many conditions virtually. Some conditions like pink eye or rashes can be diagnosed with pictures you upload to the telehealth platform or by video. If you need additional blood tests, imaging scans or other evaluations, your doctor can refer you to these services, which can be quicker than having to go to the clinic for a full appointment. 

How does telehealth compare to an in-person visit?

Telehealth offers many benefits. It saves time without having to drive to the clinic or sit in a waiting room. During cold and flu season or the COVID-19 pandemic, you can help reduce the spread of viruses. Telehealth also allows you to visit with your doctor from anywhere, even if you’re away from home. And while there’s no substitute for in-person visits with your physician, particularly for vital preventive screenings and patients with certain complex conditions, telehealth is an important addition to the care options your clinic may provide. 

What is your advice for patients who haven’t tried telehealth yet?

Telehealth is new for many people, but don’t be intimidated. Approach your virtual appointment just like you would an in-person visit. Before your first visit, download any apps or programs you might need to your computer or device, and sign up for your account so you’re ready to access care when you need it. If you’ve had a video call with friends or family, then you’ll be ready to meet virtually with your doctor.

How can patients prepare for their telehealth appointment?

Just like an in-person visit, make sure you have a list of your medications handy, think about symptoms you’ve been having and when they started, and prepare a list of questions you might have so you don’t forget to ask them. If you use at-home health monitoring tools, like a blood pressure cuff, glucose meter, thermometer or scale, jot down your latest results so you can share them with your doctor. 

For more helpful tips and information, visit TelehealthUHC.com.

Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies. For Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.