Patients determine whether they like their healthcare provider and will visit them again based on more than just medical expertise. Bedside manner--a provider’s ability to create a positive rapport with the patient and deliver information clearly--is an essential attribute for strengthening and retaining patient relationships.
But what if there is no bedside? How do all of the small signals of care and concern that let patients know a provider is invested in their care translate when the appointment is a video visit?
A new term, "web-side manner," describes the provider’s ability to develop a caring relationship over the internet during a telemedicine encounter.
Here are a few tips for telemedicine providers to get off on the right foot with patients:
Start the Call With Clarity and Purpose
If you don’t know the patient well, be sure to introduce yourself. Clearly state the purpose of the visit and explain what you expect to happen during the session. Be sure to ask the patient if he or she has questions or concerns about conducting the visit remotely.
Make Eye Contact
Ok, you can’t actually make eye contact because you aren’t in the same room, but you should look at the camera and position it so that it appears to the patient that you are looking right at them. This takes a bit of practice. Try some practice sessions with members of your staff who can provide feedback.
Patients only get a few minutes of your time, and you want them to know that they have your full attention during the visit. Make sure that ringing phones, staff members, and other distractions don't interrupt your encounter. Keep the background of the shot in mind. Choose a simple wall or decoration--nothing too cluttered or bright.
Consider Your Posture
You may be sitting down during a video visit, but good web-side manner dictates that you don't slouch or lean to one side. Your carriage should be as professional as during an in-person encounter. Sitting up straight shows the patient that you are engaged in the visit and have his or her full attention.
Don’t Let the Session End Abruptly
Be sure that you schedule enough time to wrap up the visit by answering the patient’s questions, restating the treatment plan, and outlining next steps. If you run out of time and end the session abruptly, it will feel to the patient like you’ve hung up on him or her.
Perhaps one of the most important things providers using telemedicine can do is ask for feedback as they translate their bedside manner into a virtual domain. By developing a good web-side manner, telemedicine can become an even more powerful tool to build providers' practice and create, strengthen, and retain patient relationships.