Bedside manner is truly an art and its success is rooted in the personal interaction and rapport that is built between patient and physician. With telemedicine being pushed to the forefront, “webside manner” is emerging as the virtual analog and becoming an important skill to create and maintain a trusting patient relationship.
With the rapid incorporation of telemedicine into healthcare, webside manner is one-way physicians can properly communicate with patients. Optimizing that virtual presence creates assurance in clear communication – a key factor in reducing litigation risk and increasing patient safety.
Lights, Camera, Action
The room itself should be enclosed as much as possible to reduce noise pollution and wearing headphones will increase your patient’s privacy and amplify the conversation.
Finally, before going live, check your tech. Testing your internet connection, microphone, and camera function beforehand decreases the chance of frustration and lost communication.
Just like an in-person encounter, your virtual introduction is your first impression. A friendly greeting that confirms your name, your role and the patient’s name helps set a warm and professional tone. This brief introduction will not only convey politeness but also provides time to ensure that both parties are properly set up for the call.
Eye contact is now the new handshake. Practice focusing your eyes on the camera lens and be aware of your body language. Avoid slouching, covering your mouth, crossing your arms or leaning back. These actions can be misconstrued as unprofessional or that you’re not interested in your patient. Instead, maintain an upright posture, open chest and nod periodically.
Delays in receiving audio/video input can be inevitable, creating frustration especially when it results in the interruption of natural conversation. Listen with the intent to get the full story from the patient and then paraphrase it in your words and repeat it back, allowing for a pause that might be longer than what you would allow in person.
If you use the video conference device to look up medical information, be sure to tell the patient what you’re doing. Your eyes and attention will be elsewhere while the patient is still seeing you – a brief explanation can help reduce their concern and keep them in the loop.
It’s a Wrap!
Keep track of your time on the call to avoid the trap of falling behind. With telemedicine, the onus is typically on the physician to stay on track. Most find a timer that rings five minutes before the close of the visit is a helpful tool for both the patient and physician to signal a conclusion.
Once the call is winding down, summarize the treatment plan and next steps. Leaving time for patient questions is a must. Follow-up instructions can be given at this time, as well as a courteous goodbye.
Be sure to know where the appropriate button is to officially end the visit. Sometimes, just closing out the screen may not end the meeting and your camera and microphone might still be rolling!
With the adoption of an effective webside manner, you can greatly enhance your virtual presence and start to take command of telemedicine. As telemedicine becomes assimilated into routine healthcare, the benefits of presenting your best virtual self will certainly pay off!
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