Medically reviewed on October 25, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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We shop online, book travel online, and even date and fall in love online—so why wouldn’t we receive medical care online? From checking in with your primary care provider about a spate of new symptoms to receiving test results from a recent screening, telehealth lets you receive care from the comfort and security of your home. 
If you’re new to telehealth, though, virtual healthcare visits may seem strange and maybe even daunting. You may be asking: how do I do a virtual visit with my provider? And is it really as effective as a physical appointment? How can I treat an STD without going to a healthcare provider's office?
In a word, yes: telehealth can be a valuable way of simplifying your primary care experience. And participating in a virtual healthcare appointment is much simpler than you might think—all it takes is a bit of guidance on the process.
How do I set up a virtual visit?
What are the important differences between telehealth and in-person care? Setting up a virtual visit with your healthcare provider is similar to how you’d arrange an in-person appointment, only with the addition of technology:
- Book your appointment – A recent survey demonstrates just how prevalent telehealth has become: 84% of healthcare providers now offer virtual appointments.  Whether you book an appointment online or over the phone, you might be asked if you’d like a virtual or physical appointment. If you choose the former, you may be able to select between a phone call or video session. Telephone calls work well for mental health sessions, check-ups, and test results. Video conferencing may be more valuable for other appointments.
- Submit your documents – Every healthcare provider has their own intake protocol, but generally, you’ll be asked to submit a health questionnaire and other relevant medical records. It may ask for information about your medical history, current symptoms (if you have any), any medications or supplements you are taking, allergies, and your health insurance. You might also be asked to submit images (when necessary) and vital information such as your weight and height. 
- Set up your device – Typically, you’ll be sent an email with a link for your virtual healthcare visit or be asked to download an app. You’ll need a strong internet connection and access to the camera and microphone built into your smartphone, tablet, or computer. If you’re new to video conferencing, consider doing a test run to confirm both audio and video are working well. Logging on at least 5 minutes before your virtual healthcare appointment can help avert any digital mishaps.
How does a telehealth appointment work?
Once you and your healthcare professional are connected, your telehealth appointment works much in the same way a physical doctor’s appointment would.
Generally, your healthcare provider will review your medical history and any symptoms you have, such as a cough, a persistent headache, or trouble sleeping. They’ll also ask about any medications you’re currently taking, perform an evaluation, and offer guidance on the next best steps, like seeing a specialist or trying a new medication.
What can virtual providers diagnose and treat?
Obviously, certain things cannot be examined, diagnosed, and treated in a virtual setting. Procedures like running a biopsy, conducting a gynecological exam, or getting an X-ray still require in-person visits. Same goes for receiving urgent care.
And yet, virtual healthcare providers can diagnose, treat, and help manage an impressive range of health concerns and conditions, including: [3, 4]
- Skin conditions
- Mental health conditions
- Respiratory issues (like coughs)
- Gastrointestinal issues
Can telehealth prescribe medication? Yes; in many cases, virtual healthcare visits can be used to go over lab results and other medical records with your healthcare provider, refill prescriptions, and get counseling on matters ranging from medication to stress management. However, in some states, prescribing medication via telemedicine is restricted, or may require an in-person visit first.
How should I prepare for my telehealth visit?
A quiet, comfortable environment is the main thing you’ll need for a successful virtual visit. Here are a few more tips:
- Wear comfortable clothes that will allow you to show your healthcare provider what you need to, such as a swollen wrist or a rash.
- Select a part of your home or office that offers privacy and quiet, as your healthcare provider may ask you personal questions or ask you to undress.
- If you’re meeting on a platform like Zoom or Skype, forgo background filters. Your healthcare provider will need to see you in realistic light conditions. Just make sure there is adequate light.
- Using headphones may help to reduce distractions and improve the quality of sound for both you and your healthcare provider.
- It’s recommended you compose a list of questions and concerns before your virtual healthcare appointment. You may also keep a pen and paper on hand so you can jot down notes during your visit.
Once you’ve grown comfortable with telehealth, you may find that you’re finding new ways of simplifying your in-person appointments with the convenience of virtual ones.
Virtual visits with Everlywell
With Everlywell Virtual Care Visits, licensed nurse practitioners are here to help you. Major insurance plans are accepted, and you'll have a private video call with a healthcare provider on your schedule.
What is telehealth?
Types of telehealth care and services
Differences between telehealth vs. in person care
Can medication be prescribed via telehealth?
How to treat an STI without going to a healthcare provider’s office
7 ways to best advocate for yourself at doctor’s appointments, according to an expert
Direct to patient care for testing and treating
Telehealth security and privacy: key points to know
- Telehealth: The advantages and disadvantages. Harvard Health. URL. Published October 12, 2020. Accessed October 25, 2022.
- Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-covid-19 reality? McKinsey & Company. URL. Published October 6, 2022. Accessed October 25, 2022.
- What is telehealth? HHS.gov. URL. Accessed October 25, 2022.
- Telehealth: Improving dementia care. National Institute on Aging. URL. Accessed October 25, 2022.