In a time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, more and more dental practices are turning to virtual care as an alternative to in-person appointments. Dental procedures increase the chances of COVID exposure of the dentist, the staff, and the patient.
With the rise and adoption of virtual care, it’s imperative that your dental practice offers these services to your patients. It is a cost-effective and reliable option. If you haven’t already, consider the best practices below to make sure a patient’s virtual experience is just as good—or even better—than a face-to-face one. Here are some guidelines and best practices that help deliver high-quality healthcare via remote consultation:
Be attentive to your appearance on the screen:
Doctors can increase their patients’ understanding and satisfaction with virtual visits by improving the way they appear on the video.
- Be thorough about testing your technology ahead of time.
- Make sure all video and audio functions are working properly before you get started, and ask the patient if they can hear and see you clearly.
- Ensure balanced and good lighting that illuminates your face (with no windows or other bright lights behind you). Consider turning off the lights in the room where your computer is and opening up a window for some natural lighting.
- Check your internet connection before your appointment so there are no interruptions on breaks in the voice or video.
Create a simple, virtual “healing environment”
- Set up your background to convey the message you want your patients to see.
- Have a simple, professional background that creates a welcoming, comfortable virtual space that will help reduce the patient’s stress and increase their willingness to open up to their doctor.
- Add some greenery. Plants are great for improving mood and reducing stress.
- Don’t allow ambient or background noise from your office to distract your patients during consultations.
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 positively impacts patients’ assessment of their doctors’ professionalism and trustworthiness.
Warm and professional environment:
Schedule a time when you have no distractions and won’t be interrupted. Make it have a soft, warm, and diffuse natural light. This helps set a calming and reassuring tone during virtual visits.
Learn from your patient’s home environment:
Virtual visits can give you a chance to know your patients better by seeing their homes 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 is 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:
When it comes to virtual visits, phone calls and video chats require different approaches than in-person encounters. Here are points to make effective communication with your patient on your virtual visit:
- Convery 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