Care for your health from the comfort of your home

This year we’ve witnessed a revolution in how folks have chosen to seek healthcare as many discovered “telemedicine”—the ability to use technology to see their provider from home, work, or anywhere. At Penn Highlands Healthcare, downloads of our MyHealthNow telemedicine app have increased 6,000 percent since last February, while our physicians and advanced practice providers have completed 30,400 virtual patient visits within that same period. After trekking through this week’s first snowstorm of the season, even more patients may find telemedicine handy moving toward 2021 and beyond.

Use of telemedicine, also referred to as “telehealth,” had been on an upward trend in some areas of the country in recent years. Then the COVID-19 pandemic caused more patients than ever to turn to this technology, which allows an individual to consult with his or her healthcare provider using a phone, computer, or tablet device. Says Penn Highlands Healthcare Director of Telemedicine, Angela Rhodes, RN, BSN, this convenience has proven especially useful as social distancing has been important, as well as in many other cases, including for patients who might otherwise struggle to make arrangements for transportation to and from their appointments. “Telemedicine is an immediate solution if you can’t get to your doctor’s appointment,” Rhodes says. “If you wake up and there’s a blizzard and you can’t get your car out of the driveway, or you have a sick child at home and don’t want to take them out—with telemedicine, you can call your provider’s office and ask them to see you right where you are.”

From seeing your primary care physician or a physical therapist to a behavioral health specialist, most Penn Highlands providers are set up to do telemedicine appointments. The provider will determine what is appropriate for telemedicine, and what requires an in-person exam.

For patients who remain curious about how telemedicine works, Rhodes explains what happens during a virtual provider visit, and how patients can get the most from their telemedicine appointment. To participate, you will need a smart phone, tablet, laptop or computer with a working webcam and microphone/speaker. Children can be seen by telemedicine but should have an adult present to help assist with the visit and exam.

How to prepare for a telemedicine visit:

1. Prepare your device ahead of time. If you’re using a laptop or computer with a webcam, make sure camera and the speaker and microphone are working properly. Make sure your device is fully charged or plugged in and that you have a reliable internet connection.
2. Find a quiet spot for your visit to prevent interruptions. Turn off your TV or radio so you and your provider are not distracted by background noise.
3. Make sure you’re in a well-lit area so the provider can see you.
4. If you have the equipment, check your blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, respiratory rate, and/or weight prior to your appointment.
5. Having your pill bottles handy may be helpful when reviewing medication or having a detailed medication list by your side.
6. Write down any questions you have to review with the provider prior to your appointment so you don’t forget.

And be prepared to assist the provider in your exam. You may be asked to move your camera closer so they can examine a rash, take a few steps so they can assess an injury, or ask you to press on your stomach if you’re having discomfort there. “This gives patients peace of mind,” Rhodes says. “The doctor can actually set eyes on you and talk to you, and you see a familiar face. That convenience that telemedicine delivers is a beneficial thing for patients.”

To make the telemedicine process as accessible as possible to an individual patient’s needs, Penn Highlands has made a recent addition to the range of telemedicine offerings. “With this new service,” Rhodes says, “the patient gets a link via email or text message—whichever they choose. They select the link, they’re prompted to enter their name, and then they join the room right there with the provider waiting for them. As soon as you get the link, that means the provider is in the room, ready to see them right now. Patients who are trying this are telling us, ‘That was so easy.’ We have different options for patients to make the process easier for them and their needs. Providers like it, and patients are finding it easier.”

To determine if a virtual appointment is right for you, please contact your provider’s office. To learn more about Penn Highlands Healthcare telemedicine services, visit