← Well Fall 2020

Choosing Between Telehealth and In-Person Care

Ask the doctor which is right for your particular needs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging health care providers to adopt and use telehealth during COVID-19 as a way to safely deliver care to patients in appropriate situations.1

Ask your doctor or behavioral health provider if they offer telehealth and whether a “virtual visit” is right for your particular health care needs. With telehealth, the doctor connects with you remotely so you don’t have to leave home and go to their office.

Doctors are using telehealth to treat a variety of health care issues. But in other instances, an in-person office appointment is still the right choice. How do you decide between them? Here are a few guidelines to help:

When telehealth makes sense

Telehealth is ideal when you and your doctor mainly just need to speak about an issue or concern. For example, if you’re worried about COVID-19, the doctor can answer questions about symptoms and treatment. Or, there may be other items you need to discuss, such as:

  • Lab test results
  • Prescription refills
  • Exercise or diet, or
  • Mental health concerns like stress, depression, or anxiety. The doctor may recommend that you speak to a therapist or other mental health professional; many are also available by telehealth.

Telehealth is also a good way to receive treatment for everyday care concerns, such as:

  • Skin rash or infection, eczema, and acne
  • Allergies
  • Treatment of minor injuries like an ankle sprain or small cut
  • Pink eye, and others

Have you tried telehealth powered by Teladoc®?

Besides access to telehealth providers in the Tufts Health Plan network, we also offer our telehealth solution powered by Teladoc to members of commercial plans (not including Direct). Until further notice, there will be no member cost for this service for our members, including members of self-funded groups that have elected this benefit and have not opted-out of cost sharing modifications.

When to see a doctor in person

Obviously the biggest advantage of an in-person visit is that the doctor can physically examine you. For example, you’ll want to schedule an office appointment for conditions where the doctor might need to listen to your heart or lungs or feel your abdomen. And, if at all possible, have an annual check-up in person.

Here are examples of other services that need to be provided in a medical office:

  • Immunizations, which are especially crucial for children
  • Allergy shots
  • Procedures such as excising skin lesions, taking swabs and smears, or giving injections
  • Hearing and vision tests
  • Lab work, such as blood and urine tests
  • X-rays and other diagnostic imaging

Staying safe at the doctor’s office

Call the doctor’s office in advance of your appointment and find out what they are doing to keep people safe during the pandemic. Ask for information about:

  • Cleaning and sanitizing practices throughout the office – exam and waiting rooms, elevators, high-touch surfaces, etc.
  • Patient screening questions and temperature checks for COVID-19
  • Face mask and social distancing requirements
  • Limits on the number of people who can be in the office
  • Rules for bringing another person to the appointment
  • Policies about calling from the parking lot or coming to the waiting room for your appointment

You can limit your risk of contracting the virus at the doctor’s office by:

  • Wearing a face mask
  • Keeping social distance from others
  • Avoiding contact with high-touch surfaces as much as possible: door knobs, elevator buttons, and shared office objects, such as a clipboard and pen, etc.
  • Washing your hands or using hand sanitizer before and after your visit

In difficult times like these, Tufts Health Plan is committed to providing access to safe and convenient care for all of our members. If you need help finding a doctor or have questions about your coverage, our member service representatives are available at the number on your ID card.

  1. https://www.hhs.gov/coronavirus/telehealth/index.html, accessed September 25, 2020.