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How Caregivers Can Support Virtual Visits During COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual visits are helping patients stay in touch with their health care providers to ensure their medical needs are met. If you’re caring for an older adult or a patient with a complex medical condition, there are many ways you can help them prepare for a virtual visit with their provider.

What are the Benefits of a Virtual Visit?

At Brigham Health, virtual visits are conducted through a video conference platform on Patient Gateway or Zoom, or via phone call.

A virtual visit allows patients to receive medical care in the comfort of their own home. Other benefits of virtual visits include:

  • A caregiver can join a virtual visit and be a part of the conversation.
  • Patients with a disability or hearing or visual impairment can meet with their provider and avoid a trip to the provider’s office or hospital.
  • Caregivers who aren’t physically in the same place as the patient can join the visit.

“The rapid expansion of virtual visits during the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed many caregivers, like spouses or children, to be much more involved in a loved one’s care without many of the logistical constraints that existed with inpatient visits,” says Martin N. Kathrins, MD, a urologist at Brigham Health.

How Can Caregivers Help Prepare for a Virtual Visit?

If you’re a spouse, child or family friend caring for a patient, you can help them prepare for a virtual visit by:

  • Making sure the visit is scheduled properly
  • Preparing questions to ask before the visit
  • Organizing important health information that will be useful to the provider
  • Ensuring the patient connects with their provider at the scheduled time

“If you’re providing care for an elderly patient or someone with a health condition, we really rely on your help during a virtual visit,” says Dale S. Adler, MD, a cardiologist at Brigham Health. “You can help us facilitate the conversation, go through symptoms and answer questions, and help make sure everyone is on the same page.”

What Information Can Caregivers Gather Before a Virtual Visit?

If the patient uses any health devices at home, you can help collect some of the following information for their provider:

  • Weight (scale)
  • Body temperature (thermometer)
  • Blood pressure (blood pressure cuff)
  • Blood glucose (glucose monitor)
  • Blood oxygen saturation (fingertip pulse oximeter)

As a caregiver, it’s also useful to collect as much information about the patient’s medical history, symptoms and general health information before the virtual visit. Here are some things to note:

  • Signs and symptoms: Make a list of any signs and symptoms, complaints or health concerns and related questions. Take pictures of any signs of health problems (like a rash or swelling).
  • Medications: Make a list medications with the dosages and timing. Know the location of the patient’s pharmacy and whether there’s a mail-order option. Keep the medications handy for the virtual visit.
  • Medical tests: Make a list of recent medical tests (lab work, imaging or exams) and record any recent or upcoming procedures. Write down any current therapies in which the patient is participating.
  • Medical team: Make a list of the patient’s medical care team, including their primary care provider and specialists. Include the provider’s name, affiliation, specialty and the location of their practice.
  • General health questions: Record general health information, such as eating habits, sleep quality and the amount of exercise the patient is getting.

How can Caregivers Help Conduct a Virtual Visit?

If you’re helping a patient conduct a virtual visit, here are some tips to make sure the meeting is productive and goes smoothly:

  • Log onto the video platform 5 to 10 minutes before the scheduled appointment.
  • Check that everyone is present at the start of the visit.
  • Ensure that everyone is visible onscreen.

During the virtual visit, a caregiver can help the patient:

  • Understand the provider’s questions and recommendations
  • Point out an abnormality on the body (like a rash or swelling)
  • Make sure all of the patient’s questions are answered
  • Take notes during the appointment to review later

What can Caregivers do After a Virtual Visit?

After a virtual visit, a caregiver can help the patient:

  • Clarify a diagnosis or test result
  • Discuss a change in medication
  • Ensure medications are properly ordered and/or picked-up at the pharmacy
  • Understand a prognosis and care plan

Can You Stay Connected with Your Providers During COVID-19?

Umberto Campia, MD, a cardiologist at Brigham Health, has been able to maintain strong emotional connections with his patients during virtual visits. For example, one of his patients has an advanced health condition and they meet often for virtual visits.

“It’s important for this patient to still be able to meet with me and ask me questions, even if they’re unrelated to her condition,” says Dr. Campia. “She’s comforted by the fact that she can still communicate with her provider during this difficult time.”

Schedule a virtual visit with your Brigham Health provider and experience expert care from the comfort of your home.