Enhancing Patient Comfort: A Guide to Successful Telemedicine Appointments

The Shift from In-Person Care to Telemedicine

In a world where in-person care has been the norm in healthcare, the transition to telemedicine brings forth many new considerations for healthcare providers. Beyond familiarizing themselves with this new technology, providers are also tasked with ensuring patient comfort and confidence in utilizing it for their healthcare needs. As telemedicine continues to gain traction, providers must recalibrate their practices and approaches to ensure the seamless continuity of quality care within this new environment.

4 Ways to Enhance Patient Comfort in a Telehealth Appointment

Familiarize Yourself with the Telehealth Platform

Prior to offering telemedicine appointments, it’s vital that providers ensure they are completely comfortable with the platform’s features. The foundation of a successful telemedicine appointment is seamless technological integration. However, frustration caused by technological glitches or poor internet connections can significantly hinder the experience for both patients and providers. Patient-provider relationships thrive on trust. Especially for patients who are new to the realm of virtual care, the occurrence of technological obstacles can quickly erode the sense of trust and convenience that telemedicine promises. 

Providers can practice by setting up mock appointments with colleagues to familiarize themselves with the technology and troubleshoot any potential issues. Likewise, providers can encourage patients to perform technical checks prior to their scheduled appointments. This includes testing their devices, internet connection, and audio/video settings to prevent last-minute disruptions. Most importantly, it’s crucial for both providers and patients to establish a contingency strategy in case of any mishaps. For example, they can arrange an alternative communication method, like a phone call, and ensure they have quick access to any available technical support resources.

Practice Good “Web-Side Manner”

When conducting a telemedicine appointment, it’s essential to have “a good web-side manner,” said Vimal Mishra, MD, director of digital health at the AMA. Providers are used to looking directly at their patients’ faces, however, in the case of telemedicine they should balance that with also looking directly into the camera lens. By doing so, providers can replicate the sense of eye contact that patients are accustomed to during in-person interactions. 

It’s also crucial for providers to speak clearly and concisely, as well as be mindful of their tone of voice and facial expressions. A reassuring tone can instill comfort, and a compassionate demeanor can instill trust even through digital channels. By keeping these considerations in mind, providers can develop strong connections with their patients, helping them to feel understood and valued as we continue this transition toward remote healthcare.

Use Tone and Body Language to Convey Empathy Virtually

In the realm of virtual visits, providers must be intentional about replicating the warmth and personal touch that in-person interactions offer. Establishing a sense of empathy can be as simple as maintaining eye contact and practicing active listening. Providers should also be quick to recognize and acknowledge their patients’ concerns and anxieties regarding the unfamiliar technology. Use a reassuring tone to answer their questions and help them feel more comfortable. 

Body language is also important. A friendly smile, a nod of understanding, or a slight lean forward are all examples of body language that can be translated through the screen and help foster a sense of connection. For example, Dr. Boissy, Cleveland Clinic’s chief experience officer, said one physician likes to put her hand over her heart and lean into the camera to let a patient know that she is listening and “all in” on the visit.

Anticipate Individual Needs and Challenges

Cultural competence plays an essential role in telemedicine, particularly when addressing the diverse comfort levels patients exhibit toward virtual care. Patients who are well-versed in virtual care technology will approach their appointments with confidence. However, it’s important for providers to acknowledge and respect that virtual visits aren’t as easy and accessible for all patients. For example, patients in rural communities and patients with disabilities or limited digital literacy face additional barriers to telehealth. 

To create an inclusive environment, providers can start by educating themselves about the backgrounds of their patients. Providers should approach each patient interaction with an open mind, ready to adapt their care approaches to ensure that each patient feels respected. Offering telephone visits can help bridge the gap for rural patients with limited technology and/or internet access. For patients with disabilities or limited digital literacy, providers can help coordinate assistive devices or accessibility options. Lastly, by encouraging patient feedback and involving patients in the decision-making process, providers can demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity.

Unlock the Potential of Telemedicine

The transition from in-person care to telemedicine is reshaping patient-provider interactions. To ensure the seamless integration of this new technology, the importance of technological integration, effective communication strategies, empathy, and cultural competency cannot be overstated. Each virtual visit is an opportunity to form strong connections with patients, bridge gaps, and further the adoption of telemedicine.

Beam Healthcare provides turnkey telemedicine solutions to healthcare systems, ranging in size from critical access hospitals to large healthcare systems like the Mayo Clinic. Founded and run by physicians, our goal is to improve healthcare quality, access, and equity across populations. To learn more, get in touch with a member of our team.