When they were training to be healthcare providers, today’s healthcare professionals learned how to interact with patients face-to-face. They likely weren’t taught how to deliver services through telehealth. Today, that’s changed; a public health crisis and an increased demand for virtual care mean providers have to develop a “webside” manner, too.
Here are eight telehealth tips to help you maintain a positive relationship with patients, even when you’re seeing them virtually. (To further help providers deliver telehealth services, we’re now offering RingCentral Office free of charge.)
1. Invest in the right healthcare communications platform for your organization’s needs
You can’t deliver telehealth services if you’re not using the right healthcare communications platform.
A good healthcare communications platform should be an integrated suite of collaboration tools, including voice, video meetings, secure messaging, as well as contact center technologies. It allows patients to securely connect with their providers on any device, anywhere, at any time. The right healthcare communications platform enables you to see and hear your patients clearly so that everyone can understand what’s happening during a virtual visit. It also keeps patient information safe, so everyone has peace of mind that their confidential data is protected.
2. Choose a healthcare communications platform that meets your patients’ needs
Some patients don’t feel comfortable using video chat to connect with their provider, while others lack a reliable Internet connection (a problem for some rural populations). On the other hand, some patients prefer being able to see their providers face-to-face if they can’t come in for an in-person appointment. Implementing a healthcare communications platform that offers the right mix of capabilities means that you can satisfy your patients’ needs and make virtual appointments easier.
3. Practice makes perfect
If you’re unfamiliar with the way a healthcare communications platform works, practice using it until you’re comfortable with it.
Research from the University of Pennsylvania’s medical system shows that 67% of patients who had virtual appointments during the public health crisis saw these visits as positive and as acceptable substitutes to in-person visits. Patients feel that way when their providers can confidently use healthcare communications platforms.
4. Treat it as an in-person visit
In April 2020, Forrester Research predicted there would be over one billion telehealth interactions by the end of the year. Those interactions can be either negative or positive. One of the ways healthcare providers can make telehealth interactions positive is by treating them as an in-person visit.
That means reviewing the patient’s chart before the call or video chat. During the call or video chat, don’t get distracted. If you’re using video, look at the camera, so it’s as though you’re looking at the patient. Hold the telehealth visit someplace quiet, so that it’s easy for the patient to hear you, and dress as you would for an office visit.
5. Look and listen attentively
It’s significantly easier to pick up on symptoms when a patient is in the same room as you; however, using video chat or even a phone call can still give you vital insights into how a patient is doing.
In the June 2020 issue of Infection Control Today, a patient recounted in an interview that her immunocompromised status meant she had to cancel all of her in-person appointments. Her rheumatologist suggested they try a telehealth visit. During the visit, he noticed a symptom through a physical examination of her hands. Even if you’re not in the same room as a patient, keep your eyes and ears open so you don’t miss a potentially life-threatening problem.
6. Offer a patient access center
While offering a patient access center might not seem as if it should be on a list of telehealth tips to improve your webside manner, it plays a crucial role in enhancing the telehealth experience.
A patient access center is a contact center with a healthcare communications platform at its core, which allows providers and patients to connect using video conferencing, telephony, and chat. According to research, part of patient satisfaction hinges on a provider’s ability to answer questions outside of appointments (it’s important to Gen Z, Millennials, and older patients across the board). Patients have more positive impressions of providers that can meet their needs.
7. Put patients at ease
There are patients who are enthusiastic about the idea of telehealth…and then there are patients who are less so. One of the most crucial telehealth tips for a positive experience is to make sure that patients feel comfortable with telehealth visits.
Understand how the patient journey has now dramatically changed—instead of traveling to an appointment and sitting in a waiting room, patients might now hold a video conference with their provider as they take a break from working from home or caring for their children. Getting a sense of a patient’s current situation helps providers better engage with them.
8. Be aware of changing healthcare trends
Prior to the public health crisis, telehealth wasn’t that prevalent. Before March 2020, only 8% of US consumers had used telehealth services. However, after things go back to normal, healthcare providers shouldn’t expect telehealth to disappear. Now that telehealth is becoming an option, many patients want to continue using it.
According to a 2019 survey from Accenture, more patients expect their providers to have digital capabilities:
- Sixty-nine percent want to communicate with their providers through secure email
- Seventy percent want to receive reminders when it’s time for their next appointment
- Forty-nine percent want to communicate with their provider through video chat
Patients like telehealth because it’s convenient. Even in “normal” times, providers will see a greater demand for telehealth going forward because of that factor.
Years ago, patients would recommend a provider based on his or her bedside manner. Nowadays, providers will be judged on how well they can deliver telehealth services, in addition to their behavior during in-person visits. The foundation of the right healthcare communications platform helps you build a great webside manner for your patients. Deliver the Ideal Patient Experience™. See how cloud communications are transforming healthcare. Get the demo.
Originally published Sep 22, 2020, updated Mar 17, 2021