Woman conducting a virtual visit with her care provider

Virtual healthcare has grown in popularity over the past few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual visits are visits that take place between a patient and a member or members of their provider care team via communications technology. Sometimes called telehealth, telemedicine, or video visits, virtual visits can be conducted in a number of ways, using a number of different formats. From Zoom and FaceTime to basic telephone calls, virtual visits provide access to care during times when patients are unable to make a trip to their provider’s office. 

While virtual visits aren’t entirely new, they haven’t been widely utilized until now. How can people living with heart failure have successful virtual visits? A recent episode of the Heart Failure Beat Healthy Living podcast, featuring Kismet Rasmusson, DNP, FNP, FHFSA, nurse practitioner and co-author of the scientific paper Virtual Visits for Care of Patients with Heart Failure in the Era of COVID-19: A Statement from the Heart Failure Society of America, explored this topic. 

Listen to the episode here and read on to learn how patients can prepare for virtual visits to successfully incorporate them into their treatment plant. 

How to Prepare For a Virtual Visit 

Pre-Planning

  • Technology Assessment – The first step requires a patient to assess their technology and become familiar with the tools that will be used during the visit
  • Scheduling and Consenting – A patient must consent to the visit and the platform on which the visit will be conducted before the appointment is actually scheduled. The provider will seek consent.
  • Scene Setting – Much like with other video calls, it’s important for a patient to set a scene that allows for clear visuals and audio. This includes verifying that it is well-lit with minimal distractions, such as children or pets, and minimal outside noises. 

Immediately Before the Visit

The most important thing that patients can do immediately prior to the visit is to get organized. Patients must have a number of items readily available before the call begins. This includes their most recent vital signs, medication bottles, and a list of questions or concerns they want to discuss. It’s also beneficial to have a family member or other caretaker in the room for additional support if that is an option.

During the Visit

A virtual visit is similar in format to in-person visits, with providers using technology to assess a patient’s overall health. 

  • Overview – The provider will help to orient the patient to the technology and flow of the visit, including a broad check-in. The provider will dive into a deeper overview, reviewing vital signs, medications, concerns the patient may have, and explore whether an in-person meeting is needed
  • Physical Examination – The provider may assess a number of physical features of the patient, which may require patients to move around or move their camera to better display a specific body part
  • Follow-Up Plan – Before the visit ends, its important to confirm the follow-up plan for the next visit, whether it will be in-person or virtual

Potential Challenges

As with most technology, there is the potential for challenges before or during virtual visits. Poor Wi-Fi connections, lack of technology, or a lack of familiarity with new technology can impede upon the success of virtual visits. Each visit will look slightly different based on a patient's comfort levels with and access to technology. It is important that patients stay committed to their treatment plan and work with their providers to create a plan for their own individual virtual visits. Preparation, organization, and an open dialogue with their care team will ensure that patients will have success with virtual visits. 

As a reminder, if a patient is experiencing new or extremely difficult symptoms, they should go to the emergency room immediately.  

Helpful Resources

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Explore patient resources in the HFSA Coronavirus Resources Center

Visit the HFSA Patient Hub to explore tools and resources to help patients stay healthy while living with heart failure. 

View Heart Failure Awareness 365 activities to stay up-to-date on tips for healthy living for people living with heart failure.