Telemedicine Video Visit Etiquette Tips
In an effort to promote social distancing to help “flatten the curve,” clinicians have exponentially increased telehealth services provided to their patients. This seems like a trend that is here to stay and that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is supporting. While some providers conduct most telemedicine visits over the phone, sometimes it is difficult to connect with a patient, especially if it is not an established patient.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Virtual visits conducted using a good videoconference platform are the best alternative to face-to-face office visits. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and in the case of virtual visits, that’s especially true. Video visits enable personal connections more effectively than words spoken over the phone. Some patients might find it difficult to deal with the technology involved, but if they have a smartphone with a camera it is a relatively simple, straightforward process. There are services that enable patients to click on a link you text to them, which automatically connects them to the video visit. (You can find a review of available services in our previous article.)
Here are some tips that will help you create a more professional telemedicine experience.
Some clinicians are doing most of their work at home, but wearing a T-shirt during the visit will not help you build rapport with your patient. Dress the same way you would at the office; even wear your lab coat and your badge.
Set Up and Privacy
First, make sure you have a good Internet connection. Wired connections are better than Wi-Fi.. If you are using your cellphone, make sure you have enough signal bars and that your phone is fully charged. Even with the best Internet connection, sometimes there is some lag time during the conversation with your patient. Speak slowly and pause a few seconds before you talk. Using an earbud or headset also helps minimize background noise.
Before making the call, test the video, make sure your face is well-framed and well-lit. It helps if you are actually sitting at your desk. If you are using your phone, you might want to turn your cellphone horizontally. Once you start the video call, ask the patient if they can see and hear you well.
Make sure you conduct your virtual visit in a private room. It is important to make every effort to protect the patient’s confidentiality. Besides, a quiet space without distractions is crucial; if your patients hear other people talking, see someone walking by or hear a dog barking or a television playing in the background, they might be distracted and feel uncomfortable discussing their problems with you. In any case, avoid sensitive exams that typically would require a chaperone in the office. In any case, avoid sensitive exams that typically require a chaperone in the office.
Conducting The Video Visit
At the start of the visit, greet the patient and introduce yourself. Engage with your patient. Use their name frequently during the visit, smile and keep eye contact (especially if you are using two screens). Be attuned to their facial expressions and body language.
If your patient speaks a different language, consider connecting with a translator. There are services, such as Skype Translator, that provide real-time translation embedded in the video call.
At the end of the visit, summarize the encounter and make sure all the post-appointment instructions are clear by asking the patient to confirm their understanding of the instructions, medications or diagnosis discussed during the visit. Always ask if there is anything else you can help them with and if they have any other questions.
Surprisingly, clinicians are less efficient when doing video visits. They often see fewer patients when doing telemedicine versus regular office visits, possibly because they lack the support staff that they usually have in the clinic.
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What other strategies do you use to provide a professional experience to your patients during your video visits? How is the pandemic affecting the way you conduct visits with your patients? Feel free to share. Comment below.
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