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What is a virtual appointment?

Medically reviewed on January 4, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, MS, 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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When you’re seeking assistance for everyday health concerns—whether it's for food sensitivities or for a STI—a virtual appointment can provide you with a convenient way to seek healthcare consultations from your home.

While a trip to your healthcare provider’s office can interfere with daily activities and responsibilities, a virtual visit allows you to see your provider without taking time off work or seeking childcare.

What is a virtual appointment, exactly? Virtual appointments are visits with healthcare providers over video or messaging platforms, during which you can speak with your provider to address any symptoms or concerns [1].

How is a virtual visit conducted?

A virtual visit (sometimes called telemedicine or telehealth) is a medical appointment that is conducted online. Most often, your healthcare provider will meet with you over video, although various types of telehealth platforms can include phone calls and/or secure messaging through a patient portal.

Virtual visits are useful for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Consulting for common conditions like respiratory infections, allergies, UTIs, and STDs
  • Monitoring ongoing or recurrent conditions like migraines, high blood pressure, or diabetes
  • Prescribing medication or adjusting prescriptions, depending on the condition
  • Counseling and conducting psychological assessments
  • Reviewing chronic conditions that impair mobility

To attend a telehealth visit, you’ll need to have a computer or mobile device with a webcam and an internet connection. Depending on the platform you are using, you may also need to download a software program sent to you by the healthcare provider.

Once you have everything set up, you will simply log in to the video conference at the scheduled time of your telehealth appointment and speak to a healthcare professional.

What should I expect during a virtual visit?

To make the most of your virtual appointment, look for a quiet place to meet where you won’t be interrupted or distracted. For many common conditions, a virtual healthcare visit can be just as effective as a face-to-face appointment.

During the virtual visit, you can expect your provider to:

  • Ask you about your symptoms and medical history
  • Recommend and review next steps
  • Advise you on scheduling an in-person visit for further exams or diagnostic tests, if necessary

Like an in-person visit, virtual appointments also allow you to ask questions and describe concerns in real-time which can provide a platform for an effective consultation.

What kind of conditions is a virtual visit good for?

Virtual visits are ideal for conditions that are relatively straightforward to address.

For example, if you have a cold or cough, your healthcare provider can easily assess your condition without seeing you in person. And you won’t risk spreading your illness—or catching someone else’s.

Conditions that can be effectively reviewed with virtual visits include [1]:

  • Respiratory infections
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Allergies
  • Skin conditions like rash, acne, eczema, and others
  • Pink eye
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Yeast infections
  • STDs
  • Mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and PTSD
  • Migraines

Healthcare professionals can also provide physical or occupational therapy virtually.

What are the advantages of virtual visits?

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the number of virtual medical appointments ballooned by over 6,000% between 2019 and 2020 [2]. That said, a virtual appointment is convenient for both providers and patients since it can offer:

  • Flexibility and time savings – You can see your healthcare provider from anywhere, and you may not even need to take time off work to fit it in. In comparison, the average in-person visit to a healthcare provider takes over 120 minutes (including travel time). On average, just 20 minutes of that time is spent with the practitioner [3].
  • Safety – Virtual visits allow you to avoid exposure to other sick people in waiting rooms. This is especially beneficial for people with compromised immune systems or chronic illnesses who are at a higher risk of complications from infections. That said, if you’re experiencing severe symptoms, it’s always recommended to seek the best care available—even if it means visiting a waiting room.
  • Affordability – Worried about the cost of telehealth services? In many cases, video visits are more affordable than in-person visits. Not only will you save on costs like transportation, childcare, and missed work, but your telehealth appointment itself may be cheaper than an in-person visit.

Take charge of your health with Everlywell

Virtual medical appointments are a convenient and effective solution for accessing healthcare anytime, anywhere. Scheduling a virtual appointment is easier than ever before with the variety of telehealth services available online, including Virtual Care Visits from Everlywell.

At Everlywell, we want you to have the tools you need to make the best decisions when it comes to your wellness. That’s why our at-home lab tests and Virtual Care Visits are affordable and transparently priced, with no surprise bills or fees.

What diagnoses can you get online?

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How to get gonorrhea treatment online

Telehealth vs. in-person care: does it measure up?


References

  1. Understanding telehealth. Telehealth.HHS.gov. telehealth.hhs.gov. Published February 25, 2021. URL
  2. Affairs (ASPA) AS for P. HHS Awards Nearly $55 Million to Increase Virtual Health Care Access and Quality Through Community Health Centers. HHS.gov. Published February 14, 2022. URL
  3. Opportunity Costs of Ambulatory Medical Care in the United States. AJMC. URL
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