Virtual care best practices to improve the patient experience

A doctor does a virtual visit

The rapid increase in and now widespread adoption of telemedicine has given many doctors the opportunity to learn about and experience giving virtual care to their patients. Here are some guidelines and best practices used by doctors who are achieving great patient satisfaction while delivering high quality healthcare via remote consultation.  Be attentive to how you appear on the screen. Doctors can increase their patients’ understanding and satisfaction with virtual visits by improving the way they appear on video. Your camera should clearly show your head, shoulders, and arms, and you should ensure there is a balanced light that illuminates your face (with no windows or other bright lights behind you).  Create a simple, virtual “healing environment”Set up your background to convey the message you want your patients to see.  A simple, clean, professional background creates a welcoming, comfortable virtual space that can reduce a patient’s stress and increase their willingness to open up to their doctor. Don’t allow ambient or background noise from your office distract your patients during consultations.  Project professionalism Pay attention to the message your attire is sending your patients about your professionalism, and recognize that your attire has a substantial impact on your patient’s perception of your expertise and professionalism. For example, multiple studies have shown that the traditional white lab coat has a positive impact on patients’ assessment of their doctors’ professionalism and trustworthiness. And don’t forget that soft, warm, and diffuse natural light helps set a calming and reassuring tone during virtual visits.  Learn from your patient’s home environmentVirtual visits can give you a chance to know your patients better by seeing their home and social environment. Make the most of what you can observe of your patient’s living situation! Consider asking your patients to show you around their home, let you see their refrigerator, and visit with their pets. This can be a great way to learn what advice may be helpful for healthy living goals, managing a current illness, or even avoiding injury in the home.  Best practices and communication tips for virtual care

  • Convey respect to your patient (“Hello, Mr. Smith”)
  • Establish the relationship (“Are you new to virtual care?”)
  • Elicit patient narrative (“Tell me more”)
  • Be empathic (“I hear your concern”)
  • Display nonverbal empathy with your hands and body language
  • Use reflective listening (“You have said …”)
  • Acknowledge your patient and validate their feelings (“I am sorry you are experiencing that”; “That is painful”)
  • Collaborate to develop and confirm your plan at the end of each visit
  • Confirm your patient’s understanding of the plan by asking them to share what they are going to do
  • Provide appreciative closure (“Thank you for allowing me to care for you. I’m glad you scheduled this visit”)

Sources: Environmental Considerations for Effective Telehealth Encounters: A Narrative Review and Implications for Best Practice, Telemedicine and e-Health (pre-print)
Telehealth: How to bring warmth to your virtual care visits, AMA

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