Imagine you are waiting for your patient for the first appointment via a telehealth platform. What should you warn him about before proceeding with the purpose of the meeting and what «signals» does the patient need to pay attention to? Is it real to get the same feeling and experience when carrying out a meeting by videoconference? Consider these tips for more impactful and less time-consuming consultations.
Whether you are a general practitioner or a physiotherapist, a cardiologist or a homeopath, telemedicine software can be integrated into your workflow for you to easily manage the influx of patients. Moreover, an online meeting gives you enough time for a more effective consultation with the patient.
It is important for health professionals to be proactive in this direction because this shows that they care about their patients, especially if they are overbooked and are not immediately accessible to their patients.
People become more and more interested in remote care. However, some of them don’t fully understand how it works and have concerns about the quality of healthcare services, or do not know whether their insurance will cover the services provided. This is why the therapeutic communication should adhere to the following principles:
- ensure that the patient will receive all necessary information about his state of health and
- follow the patient’s needs and dig into the central problem instead of exploring peripheral topics;
- accept and control the patient’s behavior if he feels uncomfortable during these unusual conditions;
- support the atmosphere of openness and mutual trust.
Replace non-verbal communication with an online one
It’s a mistake to think that non-verbal communication doesn’t matter during a virtual appointment. Instead, you have to adapt these communication tools for this very different format.
At the consultation, the patient must feel that the doctor understands him and can help without physical presence. Otherwise, he will have a negative experience and probably cancel a second meeting. It’s certainly bad because the daily connections between patients and their care partners should be a stated goal for long-term care settings. Here’s what can help:
- Maintain eye contact. Try to look at your laptop’s camera or your webcam most of the time, not down at your notes. This gives the appearance of eye contact.
Pro tip: Place your selfie window at the top of the screen below the camera.
- Use hand gestures. The active gesture will help to reinforce the effect of the presence and mark key points for the patient. This may make your hand placement feel a little higher than usual to you, but your gestures will read on-screen to your audience.
- Keep an eye on your posture. It helps you project confidence physically and vocally as the muscles associated with both breathing and speaking are engaged.
- Smile. Keep in mind that there’s a patient in the need of help on the other side of the screen, and a smile is always endearing. Many people point out that doctor’s kind behavior is one of the determining factors in successful communication. With that said, don’t hesitate to show your enthusiasm and warmth.
Important point: clear all surfaces and leave blank space behind you if possible. In addition, look the part, because it helps to inspire confidence in a patient receiving care via telehealth. Wearing a white coat works just as well as body language.
Write it down
Same as for in-hospital visits, you should have on hand all patient data to make the best use of your time during the appointment.
The patient must provide a list of his current medications (or ask him to gather the actual bottles in advance). Moreover, you can ask the patient to prepare his personal parameters like temperature or weight and have this information ready.
Write down any symptoms or concerns you want to know more about so you do not forget them. Make sure that the patient has no questions left at the moment during the e-visit.
Suggest sending a message through a patient portal if needed. Let your patient know that you are always there to get in touch.
Troubleshooting telehealth technology
Here are common troubleshooting tips you can use if your patient has any technical issues at the time of the telemedicine appointment. Of course, you can use them too if you have problems during the appointment itself:
- suggest restarting the computer or device;
- sounds obvious, but still – make sure the device is plugged in and charged;
- check that the internet connection is stable to work with the telehealth platform;
- close all other applications;
- try connecting with a different device;
- try to phone the tech support.
Paying for a telehealth visit
The last but not the least question about telehealth appointments is paying for them. The cost varies depending on the patient’s insurance status and the coverage amount. Telehealth insurance varies from country to country. Many private insurance companies cover telehealth appointments the same way as in-hospital visits.
Remind your patient to contact his insurance company to find out whether he is covered for a virtual visit. Even if a virtual health visit is a bit more expensive, it could still save money considering travel costs, lost wages, and the most valuable resource – time.
Healthcare providers expect that telemedicine will keep expanding now that many people are accustomed to using many services at home. And the trend is that many patients will no longer want to wait for an appointment in a crowded hospital.
It’s very important to establish a trustworthy rapport with your patients during video appointments. Be well-prepared and provide the same high-level care given during in-hospital appointments. Lastly, invest time to check in with the patient from time to time if possible – this would assist both parties in making progress in the patient’s recovery.
- Communication Tips for a Good Telehealth Patient Experience - April 19, 2022