Telemedicine appointments are more popular than ever, but videoconferencing etiquette doesn’t come naturally to every physician, especially if you’re not very used to videochat.
How do you translate the trust and empathy of a provider – patient relationship to the screen? Are there any golden rules providers can follow to make a virtual visit go smoothly?
While many of the keys to doing a virtual visit are fairly straightforward, they’re important to keep in mind. And they could make a huge difference in the professional impression you give off, and your patient’s comfort.
Here are 10 tips to help you create a professional telemedicine experience.
Start with a quality webcam and telemedicine platform.
Imagine your patient trying to talk to a blurry, pixelated version of you that stalls every few seconds or struggling to hear a muffled or stuttering version of your voice—not so effective, is it?
Always ensure you have a high-quality webcam, a reliable telemedicine software solution, and a strong internet connection (we recommend a minimum of 3mbps. Test your connection here.)
The same goes for your patient, as it might be hard to diagnose without being able to clearly see and hear your patient. Always have your patient test their visual and audio quality of webcams, microphones, software, and internet connection before the appointment.
Set up the webcam at eye level.
Discussing a patient’s concerns, diagnosis, and treatment is much more professional and engaging when you can make eye contact with your patient. You’re trying to mimic an in-person visit, afterall.
Set up a professional space for your virtual visits.
A quiet space free of distractions is crucial. No music playing in the background, or laundry hanging up behind you, or people walking through the screen’s field of vision. Patients will only feel comfortable and secure if they feel their privacy is protected.
Plus, a quiet, clean space will look much more professional on video. Before a visit, check what’s in the patient’s field of vision. If you’re doing the visit from home, tidy up and make sure there’s no clutter in the background.
Also, it’s best to sit at a desk or table when possible—the angle from sitting on a couch or lying in bed isn’t so flattering.
Your patients want a virtual visit to save them from languishing in your waiting room, so don’t keep them waiting too long by the computer either. Set up a notification system, such as through email or text, that lets patients know when you’re ready to see them, and let’s you know when a patient is ready.
Some telemedicine platforms even have this feature built in for you!
Dress the part.
You may be working at your home office, but showing up to your telemedicine appointment in a T-shirt and sweatpants isn’t going to instill much confidence in your professional demeanor. Dress how you would when you see patients in the office.
Read your patient’s complaint and have their chart ready beforehand.
Being prepared makes the appointment more professional, productive, and efficient, saving time and hassle for you and your patient.
Engage your patient.
While you’re talking, maintain eye contact with your patient by looking straight into the webcam rather than at their face onscreen. Also, nodding as they speak and asking the right questions keeps patients engaged. This can move things along and make your patient feel heard and appreciated.
Remember that even when you’re not talking, you can still be seen onscreen, and your behavior affects how the patient feels.
Communicate when you have to look away from the screen.
If you need to glance away to take notes, let your patient know you’re still listening but simply documenting the appointment as needed. This may be obvious to a patient who’s in your office, but on screen you may appear distracted and unresponsive if you don’t explain that you’re documenting the conversation.
Keep lag time in mind.
Not all telemedicine software or internet connections are created equal, so you may have to deal with some lag time during the dialogue between you and your patient. A good rule of thumb is to wait about two seconds before speaking to allow your patient’s last words to come through on your end.
Be clear with any post-appointment instructions.
If you’re calling in a prescription your patient needs to pick up or if your patient needs to schedule a follow-up appointment, let them know. Patients may not always know what to do next after a telemedicine appointment versus an office appointment, so be clear and direct with any instructions.
With these 10 tips, you should have no trouble conducting professional telemedicine appointments each and every time.
What other strategies do you use to keep patients comfortable and engaged during telemedicine visits?
Let us know in the comments section!