Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was already a rise in telehealth use by 15 to 20 percent per year. Now systems across the nation are sprinting to virtual care as clinicians all over the place are thrown in front of video screens seeing patients all day, every day.
So to help support clinicians who are learning how to better connect with patients on video, here are five basic, but important steps for the front end of every virtual encounter.
1. Build Rapport Quickly
Like with any patient encounter, building rapport occurs in just a couple of seconds. When the patient appears on video, it’s just you and them. So, first, be mindful of patients’ fears going into your visit. You’re going to see a lot of patients who are incredibly nervous, and addressing that elephant in the room early can really help. Second, imagine what people look like on FaceTime who look like they’re glad to see you, and express yourself on screen in that way. This means pay attention to your tone of voice, remember to smile, and use eye contact to establish rapport very quickly.
2. Introduce Yourself.
If you haven’t met the patient before, greet them and introduce yourself in the same way you would at an in-person visit. Positioning yourself and your team well is really important to build patient confidence in you and your organization.
3. INCORPORATE PERMISSION AND IDENTIFICATION OF THE PATIENT
Say something like, “Let’s confirm your name and date of birth. I also want to get your permission for this visit and that you’re in a place where only the people you want in the room are with you. Thank you.” Ask if there’s a caregiver who would like to join them on the visit, and be sure to thank them for being a part of the at-home care team.
4. IDENTIFY WHAT PATIENTS WANT MOST FROM THE VISIT.
Start by saying, “I want to make sure we cover your number one concern. Let me know what you want most from today’s visit.” You know, this is a crucial step for patients to have a chance to communicate their main worry and for the clinician to understand what that worry is right now. Some may be concerned about symptoms, others about exposure, and others about requesting testing. Find out the disconnection between what they want and what you provide because if you don’t, it can derail the entire appointment.
5. SET TIME EXPECTATIONS.
Convey the amount of time of the visit dedicated for the virtual visit, saying something like, “We have about 15 minutes together, so let’s dive in.” The conveyance of time expectations can help manage your telehealth visits.
Reflection & Action
What techniques have been effective when you’ve provided care over video? Share your successes and challenges in the comments below.
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