(MayoClinic.com) Good doctor-patient communication is an important part of health care. And thanks to the Internet, it may be easier than ever to quickly make contact with your doctor's office. But not all requests or topics are appropriate to discuss online. Follow these tips to make the most of doctor-patient communication online.
The Internet can be a powerful tool for enhancing doctor-patient communication. When you communicate online with your doctor:
The Internet can help your doctor, too. Your doctor may use the Internet to:
Before you connect with your doctor online, he or she may ask you to sign a consent form. The document may include details on:
If your doctor doesn't provide guidelines for online communication, clarify any assumptions with him or her before you start. Explain that you want your online health communication to be as secure as communication used for online banking.Using doctors' Web sites
Many doctors use secure patient portals to communicate with patients in a structured format. A patient portal — typically available by logging in to a doctor's Web site — may allow you to:
If you and your doctor communicate through e-mail, remember these general guidelines:
During a virtual visit, a doctor dispenses medical advice without face-to-face interaction. Typically, you'll log in to a patient portal and answer questions about your condition. In some instances — such as with a rash — you may want to provide a photo. In turn, the doctor will review the information and your medical history. He or she may provide self-care advice, links to educational materials or other information. In some cases, the doctor may submit a prescription to your pharmacy or include details from the virtual visit in your electronic medical records.
Virtual visits are often most effective between patients and doctors who have an established relationship. In addition, any doctor you consult for a virtual visit must be licensed to practice medicine in the state in which you live.
Keep in mind that you may be charged for your virtual visit. Insurance companies are increasingly covering virtual visits, however, since they're generally less expensive than face-to-face visits.The bottom line
If you're interested in communicating with your doctor online or trying a virtual visit, talk to your doctor or check out his or her Web site.
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