I love how Wikipedia describes the term “bedside manner.”
It says, “Bedside manner, an old term describing how a healthcare professional handles a patient in a doctor-patient relationship.” What’s great about the entry is that it calls bedside manner an “old” term. I’m not sure if the author intended to make the reference but there is a new game in town when it comes to the doctor-patient relationship, and that’s web-side manner.
Just because an encounter occurs via video, doesn’t mean that the provider’s ability to create a positive experience for the patient is any less important. Patients still need to get information in a way that is easy to understand. This requires more than just medical skill. The provider’s ability to connect with the patient in a meaningful way is perhaps even more important when the encounter is a remote one.
“I want all physicians to remember that this is still a patient-provider interaction, and it’s very important for the patient to see that that’s the case—for them to be comfortable, and to feel that they will receive a competent and adequate visit,” Aditi Joshi, MD, MSc, FACEP, Medical Director of JeffConnect, Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital told Forbes Magazine.
Of course, not all providers are used to video chatting with clients, so it can be tricky to know exactly what to do. Here are some best practices for outstanding web-side manner.
Get Off to a Good Start
Unless you know the patient very well, begin by introducing yourself. Explain your understanding of the purpose of the visit and get clarification if necessary. Let the patient know what to expect during the encounter and give them the chance to ask any questions, especially if this is their first telemedicine visit.
Look into the Camera
Eye contact is always an important part of communication whether you are in person or online. Position the camera so that it will feel to the patient like you are looking directly at them. You might want to practice so that you can see what it looks like from their point of view. Staff members can help. Advise the patient to also look into the camera and coach them a bit if necessary.
Create a Professional Environment
It is important to establish that the patient has your complete attention during your telemedicine visit. This means that you want to eliminate any distractions like ringing phones, staff, family members, pets or anything else that might interrupt. You should think about the background of the shot, especially if you aren’t doing the call from your office. Try to find a simple background that won’t draw too much attention.
Sit Up Straight
You will probably be sitting down during your visit, but you want to be sure you have a posture that indicates you are fully engaged. You want to avoid slouching or leaning off to one side or anything else that might appear unprofessional.
Wear What You Wear for In-Person Visits
If you wear a lab coat or scrubs for your in-office encounters, that’s the best choice for your remote visits as well. This provides continuity and lets the patient know that you take this visit just as seriously as any other.
Pay Attention to How You Wrap Up the Session
Be sure to plan enough time to finish each session by answering the patient’s questions, reviewing the treatment plan, and discussing what will happen next. Even though video visits typically take less time than in-office encounters, you don’t want the patient to feel rushed or like you’ve hung up on them.
Ask for Feedback
If you are going to improve your telemedicine program, it is important to always be open to feedback from patients and to solicit it as often as possible. It is useful to find out why they chose video for this encounter, what benefits it has for them, and whether they feel got the results they were after. This information can help you market your program to other patients and to make improvements.
In summary, professionalism, effective communication, and listening are key. We think Dr. Ferdinando L. Mirarchi, Medical Director of UPMC Hamot’s Emergency Department, and Chief Medical and Scientific Officer of The Institute on Healthcare Directives said it very well when he told Forbes, “The professional image I project to patients when doing my consultations is enhanced by adhering to web-side etiquette that focuses on good eye contact and posture, and a clean and polished background.”