How Do Virtual Doctor Visits Work?

By Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
October 18, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Virtual visits with your healthcare provider can be a convenient and easy way to get care. 

  • There are several ways you can connect with a provider virtually, including video consultations, phone calls, and emails and messaging.  

  • Arranging a virtual visit with your provider involves making an appointment ahead of time, finding a quiet and private place to speak to them from, and making sure your digital devices are working and ready. 

Virtual visits are an important component of telehealth, a broad term used to describe virtual services that enable your provider to care for you without an in-person visit. But if you’ve never had a virtual visit with your provider before, you may have some questions and concerns as to how this process works.

Virtual visits can improve a patient’s access to healthcare while making the process more convenient and flexible. But there are some things to know before making a virtual appointment with your provider, including how your provider conducts virtual visits and what devices you’ll need to make the visit work. When scheduling your appointment, it’s also a good idea to think about the right time and place for the visit.

How Do Virtual Doctor Visits Work?

Virtual visits with your provider usually take place in one of three ways:

  • Video call
  • Phone call
  • Email or messaging

The type of visit depends on the platform you are using, the services you are requesting, and the state you are in.

Like any visit with your provider, you’ll need to make an appointment ahead of time. Depending on the method you use to connect virtually with your provider, you’ll need either a phone, computer, or tablet and an internet or cellular connection to make it work.

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What They Can Treat

There are a wide range of services your provider can offer virtually, including:

  • Dermatological care
  • Neurological care
  • Eye exams
  • Diabetes care and management
  • Prenatal care
  • Mental healthcare
  • Genetic counseling
  • Urgent care (including UTIs, rashes, and sinusitis)  
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Prescription management

In some cases, your provider may recommend making an in-person appointment depending on your symptoms and medical needs.

Types of Virtual Doctor Visits

The three main types of virtual provider visits are video visits, phone calls, and email or messaging. 

Live video chat

A live video chat with your healthcare provider involves speaking face-to-face with your provider online. In order to make this option work, you’ll need an internet connection and a device with a working microphone and camera. This can be an especially effective option if you need to show your provider something visually, or if seeing your provider’s face will help you to feel more comfortable. When speaking with your provider over video, you’ll want to ensure that your room has adequate lighting and that there isn’t a lot of background noise.   

Phone call

Another common way providers connect with their patients is via phone call. With this method, your provider will usually call you on the number you gave when scheduling the appointment. To make this option work, you’ll need to make sure that your phone is charged and has reliable access to its cellular service. Finding a quiet place to take the phone call is a good idea. Using headphones also reduces the risk of others hearing your conversation. 

Email or messaging

You may also choose to speak with your provider over email or live chat. With email, you and your provider generally send messages through a secure portal. With chat, patients can send messages to their provider over a secure medical messaging app or service. To make either option work, you’ll need a device and an internet or cellular connection.  

What to Expect During Your Appointment

Regardless of how you connect with your provider, there are a few general things you can expect from your appointment.  

Privacy and security

The same privacy laws that apply to in-person medical services apply to telehealth. However, sometimes less secure apps are allowed during emergency crises.   

Costs and insurance coverage

The copay and cost of telehealth services can vary widely depending on where you live, whether or not you have health insurance, and how much coverage (if any) your insurance company offers for telehealth services. Generally, virtual visits are less expensive than in-person consultations if you have health insurance.

Virtual doctor visit etiquette

If you’re connecting via phone or video, it’s good etiquette to ensure that you’re speaking with your provider from a private, quiet, well-lit location. Before the visit, make sure your internet or cellular connection is strong and that your volume is at an appropriate level. For privacy and safety, it’s not recommended to take virtual visits while you are driving or in a public place, like a supermarket or communal office. Do not eat or drink during your virtual appointment.  

Preparation Tips

Below are a few things you can do to prepare for a virtual visit with your provider.

Choose the right time and place

When making the appointment, select a time that works well for your schedule. Once booked, mark it on your calendar so you don’t forget. When the time arrives, select a private, quiet, and well-lit place from which to speak to your provider.

Gather your medications

To help your provider, have information ready about your existing medications, allergies, medical history, and test results.   

Make a list of questions and concerns

Just like when preparing for an in-person visit, you can help make the most of your time with your healthcare provider by making a list of questions and concerns to review with them ahead of time.

Know the technical details

Before the visit, confirm how you will be speaking with your provider (over phone, video, chat, etc.). Make sure your device is fully charged, that your camera and microphone are working if needed, and that you have reliable access to an internet or cellular connection.

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Bottom Line

Virtual visits with your provider can take place over video chat, phone call, email, or messaging. If one method is easier or more accessible for you, tell your provider ahead of time. And if you need any technical or extra assistance before the appointment, contact your healthcare team.

Talk to a Virtual Doctor

With K Health, you can check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes. 

K Health offers virtual primary and urgent care, and can treat or manage the following conditions:

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare for a virtual doctor visit?
Preparing for a virtual visit with your provider should include reading the instructions of the visit beforehand and having the technical elements in place, making a list of all of your questions and concerns, and ensuring that you have a quiet and private place from which to speak with your provider.
Are virtual doctor visits effective?
Virtual visits with a healthcare provider can be a convenient, accessible, and effective way to get the care that you need. However, if an in-person consultation or test is required, your provider will tell you ahead of time.
What program do virtual doctors use for appointments?
There are several ways providers connect with their patients virtually. Some providers may ask you to download an app to speak with them virtually, some may send you a link beforehand, and others may call you directly on your phone. Be sure to confirm how you and your provider will connect before your scheduled appointment time.
How does a phone appointment work?
During a phone appointment, your healthcare provider will call you on the phone number you give them. In many cases, your provider will give you an appointment time or window in which you can expect their call. In order to connect with your provider using this method, you will need to charge your phone, ensure that you have service, and find a quiet and private place in your home or office to speak to them.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years experience. He received his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from William Paterson University and his doctoral degree from Drexel University. He has spent his career working in the Emergency Room and Primary Care. The last 6 years of his career have been dedicated to the field of digital medicine. He has created departments geared towards this specialized practice as well as written blogs and a book about the topic.

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