What to Know About Telehealth for Cholesterol

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Treatment for high cholesterol can include lifestyle changes such as heart-healthy eating, exercise, weight loss, and smoking cessation. In some cases, medications like statins may be prescribed to lower high cholesterol.

Regardless of your required treatment, regular follow-ups with your physician and bloodwork to monitor your cholesterol levels and tolerance to medication (if prescribed) are essential.

Woman speaking with her doctor via telehealth visit from home

Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

Unfortunately, many people have put off routine doctor’s visits for chronic conditions like high cholesterol during COVID-19 due to fear of exposure. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41% of U.S. adults have delayed or avoided medical care. This can exacerbate existing cholesterol issues, making them more difficult to address later on.

Telehealth has become a popular option that not only lessens fears, but can be especially helpful when additional support is needed or when treatment protocols are unfamiliar. In this article, learn about when to use telehealth, its benefits and challenges, how to prepare for a virtual visit, and what to expect.

Healthcare facilities are taking additional precautions against the spread of COVID-19 and other contagious illnesses to make in-person visits safer for everyone. However, for those who feel more comfortable speaking to a healthcare professional from home, telehealth can improve access to care.

When to Use Telehealth for Cholesterol

Telehealth refers to delivering health care through technology. This can include in real time over the computer or phone, or through recording data, images, or messages to be shared later. Remote monitoring of weight or blood pressure data that are sent to the doctor or healthcare team is also considered telehealth.

The Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) recommends telehealth interventions to reduce chronic disease risk factors and manage chronic conditions, such as high cholesterol. CPSTF found that telehealth could be particularly beneficial for follow-ups to check medication adherence and review dietary changes.

You may use telehealth in these situations:

  • If you are starting a new medication, your doctor may want to check to make sure you are tolerating it well and not experiencing any adverse side effects.
  • Your provider will want to monitor your cholesterol levels to make sure that your current treatment plan is effectively doing its job. While the blood will need to be drawn at a clinic or lab, the results can be reviewed and discussed in a virtual visit.
  • Telehealth visits can provide opportunities to discuss cost concerns and treatment alternatives.
  • As part of your cholesterol treatment plan, your provider may want to set goals around healthy lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising more, eating more fruits and vegetables, or quitting smoking.
  • Part of goal-setting includes checking in on your progress, providing support, and offering education when needed. For instance, if you are working toward smoking cessation, your doctor can help manage your withdrawal symptoms with the appropriate interventions (like nicotine replacement therapy or coping strategies).
  • Telehealth appointments can be conducted by various members of the healthcare team, such as a nurse practitioner or a dietitian who can provide specialized support on your journey to better health.

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

Although telehealth is an excellent option for treatment, some circumstances may require in-person visits, particularly if your doctor is having difficulty assessing your symptoms virtually.

If you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, nausea, and lightheadedness, call 911 for emergency assistance.

Benefits and Challenges

Telehealth visits provide greater access to healthcare appointments, especially if you face transportation challenges, childcare obligations, or difficulty getting time off from work. Appointments, therefore, can be shorter and more efficient, as you don’t need to account for travel time or other distractions.

Checking in more regularly with your healthcare professional through telehealth visits can also ensure that you understand your treatment plan and have plenty of chances to discuss concerns as they arise.

The added flexibility can translate into better access to reliable and personalized information. You’ll also usually enjoy less wait time compared to scheduling an appointment with the healthcare team in person.

If you experience troubling symptoms in response to cholesterol medication or lifestyle changes, your doctor can use your telehealth appointment to assess the need for an office visit or a specialist appointment. You could be transferred to a specialist through telehealth or connected with other resources nearby.

Although telehealth is an excellent option for managing high cholesterol, routine care—such as imaging and blood tests—will still need to be performed in the office, clinic, or lab.

Privacy concerns can be a challenge to transitioning to telehealth services. The Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidance to healthcare providers using remote technology (like Zoom or Skype) to ensure telehealth security standards protect personal health information per federal law.

Many of these platforms offer versions that meet health information privacy (HIPAA) compliance standards. Any licensed healthcare professional should be familiar with how to meet these requirements. A quick call to your doctor can confirm if they are using compliant software for your telehealth visits.

How to Prepare for a Telehealth Visit for Cholesterol

To prepare for your telehealth appointment, first decide if you will need your phone, laptop, or computer. Be sure that your device is fully charged, or you can keep it plugged in during the visit.

You may be asked to download an app or software, or log into a portal before your appointment. Getting everything set up can take time, so it’s best to take care of it before your appointment. If you run into technical difficulties, your provider should have support staff to assist you over the phone.

Try to find a private location in your home with good lighting and limited background noise so that your provider can see you clearly and you’re able to give your full attention to the appointment.

Gather all of your medications and prepare a list of questions, symptoms, or concerns, just as you would for an in-person visit. If you started medication, be ready to share any problems you may face with taking it as prescribed.

Will Insurance Cover Telehealth for Cholesterol?

Individual insurance plans may vary, but more and more companies are offering complimentary or discounted rates for telehealth visits. Call your insurance carrier to ask about the cost of telehealth before you schedule your appointment.

If you’re uninsured, the doctor or healthcare professional should be able to give you a price quote for telehealth consults compared to in-person appointments.

What Happens During the Visit

Telehealth appointments will likely follow the same process as your in-person visits. Your doctor may ask you questions about your medical history and current symptoms. You may be asked to provide your weight, blood pressure, or temperature since your provider will be unable to check these metrics during the visit.

To monitor your heart health, your doctor may inquire about your progress with healthy lifestyle changes discussed during previous visits. Sometimes an in-person follow-up appointment is requested before refilling your medications or doing additional testing.

Incorporating telehealth appointments into your routine may seem overwhelming at first, but with preparation and patience as you set up your first few visits, telehealth can make it easier to stay on track with your health care.

A Word From Verywell

Cholesterol issues typically require lifelong management. Having the support of a qualified healthcare professional can make a significant difference in your heart health. With the convenience of telehealth services, you can check in with a medical professional as needed to address concerns and remain accountable to your treatment plan.

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Article 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. American Heart Association. Prevention and treatment of high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia). Updated November 11, 2020.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Delay or avoidance of medical care because of COVID-19–related concerns — United States, June 2020. Updated September 11, 2020.

  3. Harvard Health Publishing. Telehealth: the advantages and disadvantages.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Telehealth interventions to improve chronic disease. Updated May 11, 2020.

  5. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Telehealth: delivering care safely during Covid-19. Updated July 15, 2020.