Throughout the past year, telemedicine has taken off at an astronomical rate. The COVID-19 pandemic medical practices now have to offer a service that used to be an after-thought.
Consequently, providers now face a unique dilemma: how do you properly service patients when they’re not in the same room as you?
We’re all very aware that online communication is not the same as face-to-face interaction, but the steps needed to bridge that gap can be challenging to ascertain. In this guide, we will provide nine tips to improve your telehealth medical practices that help remedy the problem.
1. Install Proper Equipment
An HD camera where the client can see you is a must. Nonverbal cues are a vital part of any conversation, and the presence of a friendly face can provide comfort and reassurance to your patients.
Just as necessary is proper sound equipment. If the patient cannot clearly understand you, important information can be lost. Many devices have built-in microphones, but if you’re finding that audio isn’t crystal clear, it’s worth investing in a high-quality microphone.
2. Set the Space
The space in which you’re hosting the telemedicine visit should look clean and professional. If you’re still at your office, you should be in good shape, but if you’re working from home, we recommend a study or dedicated workspace. Ideally, this area should look tidy and office-like.
Your workspace should be brightly lit — the HD camera from the last step won’t be of much use if your face is shrouded in shadows. Similarly, top-end sound equipment will do you no favors if it’s picking up outside noise, so we recommend a quieter area for your visits.
3. Do a Dry Run Every Day
Technical issues are abundant for patients and providers alike in telemedicine visits. Sometimes, your set-up isn’t right. Problems can spring up out of seemingly nowhere — maybe your camera isn’t booting up, or perhaps your audio quality is distorted.
To mitigate these hazards, we recommend that you do a dry run every day. If you test your set-up before appointments begin, you’ll have time to find a solution and minimize any disruptions to your itinerary.
And if the problem persists, you will have time to switch to an alternative set-up before your day begins.
4. Use a Wired Internet Connection
This may not seem like something that needs its own section, but we cannot stress how deeply important this is. While most of us are familiar with Wi-Fi for personal use, online peer-to-peer connections are sometimes challenging.
Wi-Fi is generally going to be much less consistent than a wired connection. Stutters, connection lags, or disconnections are much more likely to occur when using a Wi-Fi connection.
Especially in telemedicine, where you and your patient are on a strict timetable, it’s best to minimize these by plugging in an Ethernet cable.
5. Refamiliarize Yourself With Your Patients Case Files
Reminding yourself about the details of your patients is a generally encouraging practice. Disruptions on either side of the connection can cause abrupt ends to visits, so you want to maximize the time you do have with them.
If it’s a general wellness check-up, reminding yourself about their medical history can remind you to inquire whether they’ve had any similar difficulties in the time since you last met.
If it’s about a specific medical issue, you can prepare your recommendation and treatment options before the appointment.
6. Stay Engaged With Your Patient
Telemedicine is a generally surreal feeling. The lack of face-to-face interaction leaves both parties struggling to engage in the same ways we usually do, but we need to do our best to stay involved in the conversation.
The appearance of “checking out” — even if you’re doing nothing of the sort — can cause many issues with patients.
If it appears you’re not listening or that your note-taking is more important than responding to what they’re saying, you’re going to have unhappy patients.
So treat the conversation like you would any in a real office. Please keep the conversation going. Ask probing questions to show you’re listening to exactly what they’re saying.
7. Be Prepared to Share Your Screen
This is something many people overlook, but many video clients allow you to share your screen outside the video stream. While it may seem non-intuitive, we can utilize this feature to promote engagement with your patient.
For instance, if you believe your patient has pneumonia, you can share your screen and show them symptoms, treatment options, and other relevant facts.
It’s a bit similar to giving them a sheet of paper to look at in your office, a visual aid to help them follow along and process what you’re saying.
8. Utilize the Support Team
Most telehealth software services have dedicated support teams that can help resolve issues you’re having with your client. Write their contact number and put it somewhere you’ll remember to check if you need to contact them.
Often, problems that would take us hours to resolve on our own can be solved in minutes by people who see these problems every day.
9. Talk to Your Patient After the Appointment
At the end of the appointment, we recommend talking to your patient about the call quality and whether there was anything they had difficulty understanding.
Knowing what aspects, if any, patients are having problems with can help you improve your practice. If you’d like, you can even send them a survey to obtain quantitative data about any potential issues.
Check out caretimemd.com for more information about telemedicine software and feature