For years, Hollywood has effectively created an intriguing image of the future — from terrifying alien threats to frightening robot takeovers, we’ve imagined it all. But what about some of the real inventions and technology such as the swelling growth of telehealth that have some fearing the loss of a true human connection? Fortunately, patients can “fear not,” for with great technology, comes great opportunity for providers to make any virtual healthcare visit more personal.
As all parties in the healthcare system continue to embrace telehealth technology, it is becoming even more crucial for providers to practice good social etiquette to make all patients feel connected from afar. Simple behaviors such as making eye contact, small talk and smiling can have a large impact on keeping patients engaged versus having an impersonal interaction.
Although eye contact may seem like an obvious way to remain engaged with a patient in or out of the office, it may come as a surprise that achieving direct eye contact through video is complex. Even the angle of the camera can have an impact. In a study on the perception of eye contact in a video teleconsultation by the NCBI, providers who kept the angle of the camera at a farther horizontal distance received the most positive patient satisfaction results.
Providers should also continue to drive patient engagement in video visits through building rapport with patients as efficiently as possible. Simple gestures like smiling can make even the most nervous patients feel calm and create the opportunity for trust. In fact, according to the American Telemedicine Association, establishing rapport is as important in interactive videoconferencing as it is in face-to-face care.
Keep It People-centric
In recent years, healthcare has started focusing on putting the patient at the center of care, and with telehealth technology expanding at insurmountable rates, the opportunities for patient-centered care is continuously growing.
With the saturation of technology in our daily lives, some patients remain averse to using telehealth services for fear of providers becoming disconnected with the human element of virtual visits. To combat these fears, providers must remember that although the 21st century is moving toward innovations such as artificial intelligence technology, a real person is on the receiving end — not a robot.
To keep the patient at the center of a virtual visit, providers should also maintain a hyperawareness of the things patients are (or oftentimes, are not) saying during a virtual visit. When a patient is in the office, providers may have the advantage of picking up on more subtle behaviors and interactions than over a video camera, especially if there is any interference with connection or video quality. When consulting a patient using a telehealth solution, remaining engaged can mean the difference between a positive experience with a correct diagnosis, or a misdiagnosed, unengaged patient.
Aim to Strengthen Patient/Provider Relationships
In the past, one of the main arguments against the adoption of telehealth has been the assumption that virtual visits detract from the patient/provider relationship. When telehealth was making its initial debut, many feared that such technology would contribute to a loss of the rich patient-provider relationships that had previously been established.
However, patient portals in conjunction with virtual visit technology allow patients and providers to keep in closer contact than ever. In fact, one of the chief advantages of virtual visits, according to eVisit, is that patients feel reassured that doctors are available and involved in their care, and can easily reach out with questions or report early warning signs or symptoms. Patient portals are enabling patients to make follow-up appointments more convenient than ever before.
With telehealth continuing to soar, providers can further ensure its success by aiming to keep virtual visits personal in today’s digital age.