“Telemedicine is a wonderful way to connect with your physician, especially for busy families, those with demanding work schedules, and those who live in remote areas,” says board-certified dermatologist Jennifer David, DO, MBA, FAAD, who founded her own virtual dermatology practice. “However, just as you would prepare for an in-person doctor’s visit, it’s important to spend a few minutes preparing for a virtual visit in order to make your appointment as valuable and useful as it can be.”
To help patients get the most out of their telemedicine appointments, Dr. David recommends the following tips:
- Before your appointment, contact your insurance provider to find out if your plan covers telemedicine appointments. Many insurance providers have updated their plans to cover telemedicine visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it’s important to find out what type of telemedicine visits are covered and who can deliver them — such as your dermatologist or someone specified by your insurance provider.
- Gather essential medical information. This is especially important if you have a telemedicine appointment with a doctor you haven’t seen before. Knowing your medical history will help your doctor make a diagnosis, decide treatment options, and prescribe medicine, if necessary. Ask your doctor’s office if they have any forms you need to fill out before your appointment.In addition, make a list of the following before your appointment:
- Medications you take
- Major illnesses or surgeries you have had
- Previous health problems
- When your current symptoms began
- Your allergies
- Previous health problems or illnesses that your family members have had, such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes
You will also want to ask your doctor’s office what type of telemedicine visit will be conducted and how:
- For video visits, you will be sent a website link to connect at the time of your visit.
- For telephone visits, you may be given instructions on when to expect a call from your doctor.
- For visits through photos only, contact your doctor’s office to find out when and how to send your pictures. You may also be asked to send photos for video and telephone visits.
- Make sure your pictures are well lit. Whenever possible, take your pictures in natural light. If natural light isn’t possible, use another light source, such as a book light or flashlight. Be mindful of shadows or glare on the area(s) of interest.
- Take multiple pictures, including one of each side of the area(s) you need examined. Make sure to show the entire body part where the affected area is present.
- Take pictures to compare. For example, if you have a spot on your hand, take pictures of both hands so your doctor can see how that area usually looks. Make sure you also take a close-up and far-away picture of all areas involved so your doctor can compare.
- Get help. If you live with someone, ask them to take pictures of hard-to-reach areas, like the back. If you live alone, use a mirror to make sure you are taking pictures of the right spot.
- If your picture turns out blurry, delete and retake it, as a clear picture is critical for an accurate exam.
“While telemedicine can’t always replace an in-person visit with your dermatologist, it can help in times when you can’t get to their office,” says Dr. David. “After your appointment, depending on your condition, your dermatologist may schedule another appointment with you — either in-person or another telemedicine appointment — to see if your condition is improving. Make sure to keep any follow-up appointments that your dermatologist recommends in order to stay healthy.”
These tips are demonstrated in “How to prepare for a telemedicine visit,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD’s “Video of the Month” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair, and nails.
To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area who offers telemedicine appointments, visit aad.org/findaderm and do an advanced search for “teledermatology” as the practice focus.
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About the AAD
Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair, and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair, and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@
Editor’s note: The AAD does not promote or endorse any products or services. This content is intended as editorial content and should not be embedded with any paid, sponsored or advertorial content as it could be perceived as an AAD endorsement.