The use of telemedicine in the UAE has drastically risen after the coronavirus outbreak. Due to the lockdown, even for regular appointments, patients are booking their video and audio consultations online. To avoid being infected individuals are preferring finding virtual doctors to cater to their concerns.
What is a virtual appointment and how do I get one?
A virtual medical appointment is when you’re talking to the doctor through a device’s screen. You’re not there with the doctor in person, and the virtual consultation can be made from the comfort of your home on a stable internet connection. The tele-appointments can be of many types, the most popular being a chat, an audio, and a video call.
If you already have a doctor, you can call up the clinic and ask if the respective doctor is offering telemedicine services. If not, you can book a specialist here for a one on one detailed video consultation. Dubai-based private healthcare entities, Aster DM Healthcare, and HealthHub by Al-Futtaim have introduced free telehealth care services. However, priority is given to serious cases.
How should I prepare for the appointment?
Keep the following points in mind to make the most out of your tele-visit:
· Before the appointment begins, right down the points you want to discuss. You may have a great memory but it is easy to lose train of thought especially if it’s your first virtual appointment. If you have multiple problems, you can prioritize them.
· If you’re switching doctors, keep your medical files in reach so that you can easily fill the doctor on your past prescriptions, etc.
· For both audio and video consultations, it is important to find a place with minimal distractions so that there is no communication barrier. Test your internet connection beforehand. If you’re using an unfamiliar software, have the clinic’s staff explain it to you before the call.
· It is great to have a weighing machine, a thermometer, or any medical instrument that you use (for example a blood glucose meter if you have diabetes) near you so that if needed, you can provide the doctor with the information.
· Remember to take notes so that you do not forget the medical advice. Some telemedicine applications have this feature in-built.
After the appointment, give feedback to the team so that if there were any shortcomings, the future tele-visits can be improved.
Will the appointment be covered by my insurance?
Some insurance companies in the UAE have started offering coverage in their plans for telemedicine consultations however, it is not applicable for all specialties. It depends on the nature of the tele-visit. Moreover, some telehealth platforms are only accepting online cash payments without linking the insurance companies to the system.
In order to find out if the copay can be reimbursed, talk to the clinic beforehand.
Is a virtual appointment safe?
All clinics providing telemedicine in the UAE have to abide by DHA’s telehealth standards which means that safety and security cannot be compromised. Some of the important points listed are:
· The patient has to give consent before the appointment.
· The patient’s data cannot be stored without permission.
· Video recording is not allowed unless special permission is taken from DHA and the patient.
· The medical data cannot be forwarded to any doctor without the patient’s permit.
· The medical data cannot be sent outside of the UAE.
If you’re still concerned, you can talk to the clinic and understand the regulations before the appointment starts.
Can the doctors prescribe medicine during a virtual appointment?
Yes, the doctors in the UAE are allowed to prescribe medicine during tele-consultations with the exception of narcotics and controlled substances. Clinics with pharmacies have the option to have the medication delivered or picked up, whereas some clinics give digital prescriptions to be shown to pharmacies near the patient.
How do I know if an office visit is necessary?
Telemedicine has its limitations. If for example, you cannot walk, you need a mammogram or any other physical exam, or there’s a wound that needs to be inspected – meaning the issue is complex and not straightforward, it is best to head to the doctor’s office. After consulting the doctor online, if a physical meet-up is necessary, you’ll be advised accordingly.
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