You can access UCSF healthcare providers through telehealth for many types of appointments. This option saves you the hassle of travel and may be more convenient for certain types of appointments. With the coronavirus outbreak, we are relying on video visits more than ever.

What is telehealth, or a video visit?

Telehealth is a general term for using technology to provide health care at a geographical distance. The main telehealth tool used by UCSF is the video visit, which allows you to talk with your health care provider from home, the office or even your car. All you need is a smartphone or computer loaded with Zoom, a free video conferencing program, and a MyChart account.

Another telehealth tool is our remote second opinion program. This service allows patients in other cities, states or even countries to consult a UCSF doctor about their diagnosis or treatment plan without having to come to the clinic. A UCSF specialist will review the medical records and give the patient's health care provider a written second opinion.

What types of video visits does UCSF offer?

We offer video visits at more than 120 of our clinics, providing virtual care for hundreds of conditions. Our providers see patients online for primary care, follow-up visits (including postsurgical follow-up), mental health services, pain management, medication monitoring and other issues.

Of course, we can't manage everything remotely. Your doctor's office can help determine whether a video visit is right for your current needs.

How do I request and access a video visit?

Follow these six easy steps to set up a video visit with your provider:

  1. Contact your clinic to request an appointment.
  2. Set up your MyChart account, and download the MyChart app to your tablet or device.
  3. You will receive a video visit confirmation in MyChart (under the “Messaging” icon)
  4. Test your device. Your connection is successful when you see yourself on-screen.
  5. For your appointment, join 5 minutes before your scheduled time. You will be placed in a waiting room and the provider will admit you.
  6. If you are having trouble, call MyChart customer service at (415) 514-6000 for assistance.
What should patients expect during a video visit?

A video visit is much like a regular office visit, but instead of going in person, you'll talk to your doctor or other health care provider from home, work or any other convenient location. At the scheduled time, you'll log in for your video chat and spend the same amount of time with your provider as you normally would. Your provider can assess symptoms, make diagnoses, recommend treatments, adjust medications and send prescriptions to your pharmacy. However, it's possible your provider will determine during the video visit that you should be seen in person, whether by your provider or a specialist.

What technology do patients need for a video visit?

Video conferencing can be done using a tablet, smartphone, laptop or desktop computer – any device with an integrated camera. You only need to download Zoom and a MyChart account.

How is telehealth helpful during the coronavirus crisis?

We've ramped up telehealth services substantially since the pandemic began. Our providers are using video visits with patients whenever appropriate. Patients with possible signs of infection with COVID-19 can access an online symptom checker on MyChart that provides an initial screening. Depending on the result, they may receive self-care advice, a phone consultation with a nurse, a video visit appointment with their doctor, or a referral to urgent care.

In addition, we now have a Virtual Acute Care Center to efficiently and safely assess patients with serious respiratory symptoms. We've equipped our emergency department teams with telehealth tool kits that include high-resolution cameras, speakers and microphones. This allows them to interview patients who have COVID-19 symptoms without being exposed.

What do video visits cost, and does insurance cover them?

California law requires private insurers to treat video visits the same way they do in-person office visits. Your plan should reimburse a video visit as it would a regular visit; co-pays and deductibles still apply.

Until recently, Medicare would not cover these visits when patients were at home (as opposed to being at another doctor's office). In response to the coronavirus, that restriction has been dropped and Medicare is reimbursing video visits, at least for the time being.

  • For patients with private insurance plansCalifornia law requires private insurers to treat video visits the same way they do in-person office visits. Your plan should reimburse a video visit as it would a regular visit; co-pays and deductibles still apply.
  • For patients with Medi-CalYour video visits are covered.
  • For patients with MedicareUntil recently, Medicare would not cover these visits when patients were at home (as opposed to being at another doctor's office). In response to the coronavirus, that restriction has been dropped and Medicare is reimbursing video visits, at least for the time being.