Even though we’ve been quarantining at home for the last few months, that does not mean we’ve stopped communicating with each other and that includes our healthcare providers. Advances in technology have allowed virtual medical appointments (telemedicine) to increase significantly during the pandemic.
Telemedicine can be especially helpful for patients with cardiovascular conditions, including congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, and high blood pressure. This is because monitoring symptoms, medications, and data from medical devices, such as pacemakers, is critically important for your heart health.
If you’ve never had a telemedicine visit, it may seem intimidating. To help you prepare, we’ve outlined a few steps and expectations for before, during and after a heart and vascular telemedicine visit.
Before Your Heart and Vascular Telemedicine Visit
- Install BlueJeans on your device
BlueJeans is a HIPAA-compliant, secure platform used by Penn Medicine care teams to talk with patients. It is important that you download and test BlueJeans before your visit. Our staff will call you ahead of time to make sure you are comfortable with the technology.
- Use a strong internet or cellular connection
We recommend using a phone, tablet or laptop for your appointment because these devices allow you to easily move the camera.
- Be at home for your appointment
Sit in a private, quiet and well-lit room where you feel comfortable talking about your medical care. Avoid sitting with your back against a light source like a window.
- Determine if you would like to include a support person
You are welcome to invite a caregiver or family member to sit-in on your telemedicine visit with you.
- Take your blood pressure, heart rate, and weight
If you have access to a blood pressure cuff, heart rate monitor and scale, record your blood pressure, heart rate and weight 30 minutes before your appointment. Keep these devices nearby during the visit.
- Keep your medication bottles nearby
Your physician will review your medications and ask if you need any prescription refills.
- Write down your questions
Sometimes it is difficult to remember all the health questions you may have. To make sure you ask them during the visit, write your questions down ahead of time.
During Your Heart and Vascular Telemedicine Visit
Once you and your provider are on the BlueJeans App, you will be able to see your provider and have a conversation similar to an in-person office visit. Your provider will go over any changes in how you’ve been feeling, recent lab work, your list of medications and even perform a video visual exam.
Your provider will ask you about any symptoms, including:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Shortness of breath while lying flat
- Heart racing or palpitations
- Swelling in your feet and/or ankles
- Lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting
Your provider may also ask you:
- For any weight, heart rate, pulse oximeter or blood pressure recordings
- To point the camera at your neck
- To point the camera at your feet and legs to see if there is any swelling
- About your medications and if you need any refills
At the end of the visit, your doctor will determine if any changes need to be made to your medications, recommend lab work or testing, and advise on when to schedule a follow-up visit.
After Your Heart and Vascular Telemedicine Visit
After your virtual visit, expect to have a follow-up telemedicine or an in-person appointment scheduled. If your doctor wants you to have additional heart and vascular testing or lab work completed, a member of your care team will contact you for scheduling.
It is also recommended that you sign up for myPennMedicine, Penn Medicine’s online patient portal. This tool is a simple, secure way to manage your health care, communicate with your doctors, and access your medical information from your personal computer or mobile device.
Remember, it’s important not to delay heart and vascular care. Whether it’s done virtually or in-person, we’re here to care for you in the safest way possible. If you are not feeling well, call your doctor’s office, and for emergencies, call 9-1-1. All Penn Medicine facilities are open and have extensive protocols in place to ensure your safety and wellbeing.