What to Know About Telehealth for Anemia

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Telehealth—the use of technology to conduct video consultations with healthcare providers online—is emerging as an option to help with various health conditions, including anemia—a condition marked by a deficiency of red blood cells or of hemoglobin in the blood, resulting in a pale appearance and weariness.

Learn the benefits and challenges of using telehealth for anemia, and how to make of most out of your appointment.

A woman talking to doctor on a video call on a laptop

The Good Brigade / Getty Images

Telehealth and COVID-19

With the spread of COVID-19, telehealth has become an attractive alternative to in-person healthcare appointments. While healthcare offices and clinics are taking measures to keep staff and patients safe, refraining from going to public places—unless necessary—is a good practice during a pandemic.

When to Use Telehealth for Anemia

For people with anemia, telehealth can be used to review symptoms and help to receive ongoing care through virtual follow-up appointments.

Some of the symptoms of anemia that can be addressed with a telehealth visit include:

  • Lightheaded or dizziness
  • Unusual cravings, such as the desire to eat ice, clay, or dirt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased fatigue
  • Constipation
  • If it’s a video visit, the healthcare provider can visually assess for glossitis (inflammation or redness of the tongue), paleness of the skin, or conjunctiva.

Seek immediate medical attention or call 911 if you are experiencing any of these more severe symptoms:

  • Fainting, passing out, or loss of consciousness
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain

Contact your healthcare provider to see if a virtual visit would be appropriate for you. In some cases, they may recommend an in-person visit instead of a telehealth appointment.

You May Need to Be Seen in Person If...

When diagnosing anemia, there are some steps that can’t be completed during a virtual appointment.

Additional tests that may be used to diagnose anemia that need in-person visits include:

  • Blood work to check iron, vitamin B12, folic acid, and complete blood count levels
  • Stool tests to assess for the presence of blood in stool
  • A CT scan of your abdomen
  • A chest X-ray
  • Scopes of your gastrointestinal tract (endoscopy, colonoscopy, etc.)

Benefits and Challenges

With any service, there are potential benefits and challenges. With telehealth services the benefits of use include:

  • Eliminating travel time and the cost of travel
  • Increasing access to health care for patients who are unable to travel to an office or live in a rural area
  • Missing fewer appointments
  • Ensuring patient and staff safety for those with weakened immune systems
  • Decreasing wait time since less time is spent in waiting rooms and appointments can sometimes be scheduled quicker virtually
  • Serving as the first visit to assess if any in-person tests are needed

Some of the challenges to using telehealth services include:

  • Technological difficulties, because some skill with technology is needed to sign in to the telehealth appointment
  • Accessibility issues, because not everyone has access to a device or Internet connection that can support a telehealth visit
  • Limited physical exams and assessments, since some testing still needs to be completed in person such as full physical exams, lab work, and imaging tests
  • Communication barriers, because telehealth services rely on verbal communication, plus sometimes poor audio connection can interfere with the quality of care
  • Limited access to prescriptions, since certain medications can’t be prescribed via telehealth in some states

How to Prepare for a Telehealth Visit for Anemia

Preparation is key to get the most out of your telehealth appointment, so it is important to take a few steps to prepare for the appointment.

To get the most out of your telehealth appointment:

  • Decide which device you will be using ahead of time—smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.
  • Ensure your device is fully charged before your appointment or have your charger available during your appointment.
  • Write down any symptoms you wish to discuss or any questions you are planning to ask; that way you don’t forget while on the call.
  • Arrange for child or pet care, if needed, to reduce distractions during your telehealth appointment.
  • Find a quiet area without distractions to use for your appointment and understand how to use the software.
  • If possible, test your device before your appointment to verify you can access the appointment.

What Happens During the Visit

Telehealth visits are similar to the in-person visits that you are used to, but instead of traveling to the doctor’s office and sitting in a waiting room, you log in to the appointment. You simply need to start your device and sign in before your appointment time and then will be admitted to the call when your provider is ready to see you.

Your healthcare provider will gather what they need to know about your symptoms, along with other relevant information. With video chats, healthcare providers are able to complete some parts of physical exams by having you move around or viewing external symptoms (like rashes).

After the healthcare provider has gathered the information, they will make an evidence-based diagnosis or request an in-person visit for the next steps. These next steps could include an in-person physical exam, lab work, or testing.

If no further testing is needed to make a diagnosis, your healthcare provider will review recommended treatment options and provide guidance. You will also have time to ask any questions or express any concerns that you have.

Will Insurance Cover Telehealth for Anemia?

Telehealth services are not free. Coverage for telehealth varies between states and between insurance providers. Before booking a telehealth appointment, contact your insurance provider for specifics about their telehealth coverage.

A Word From Verywell

While in-person visits will likely never be completely replaced by telehealth appointments, telehealth does provide another option for patients and their healthcare team to monitor and treat anemia. Virtual visits are a valuable tool for providing high-quality patient care because of convenience and increasing the accessibility to health care for many people.

Reach out to your healthcare provider to see if virtual visits make sense for you and how they could help with managing anemia.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Jonassaint CR, Shah N, Jonassaint J, De Castro L. Usability and feasibility of an mhealth intervention for monitoring and managing pain symptoms in sickle cell disease: the sickle cell disease mobile application to record symptoms via technology (SMART). Hemoglobin. 2015;39(3):162-168. doi:10.2196/13168

  2. Chaparro CM, Suchdev PS. Anemia epidemiology, pathophysiology, and etiology in low- and middle-income countries. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2019;1450(1):15-31. doi:10.1111/nyas.14092

By Ashley Braun, MPH, RD
Ashley Braun, MPH, RD, is a registered dietitian and public health professional with over 5 years of experience educating people on health-related topics using evidence-based information. Her experience includes educating on a wide range of conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, HIV, neurological conditions, and more.