The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in countless changes felt around the world. One of the major developments that has come about largely as a result of COVID-19 is the increased availability of telemedicine. While telemedicine was, in many ways, still in its infancy before 2020, the demand for an ability to obtain healthcare services from home has prompted legislation to allow for expanded telehealth services in the United States. Telemedicine in the time of coronavirus is vital, and it will likely remain a popular alternative to in-person visits long after the pandemic reaches a conclusion.
As a healthcare professional, providing virtual healthcare services can be tricky. While you’re likely used to interacting with patients in person, providing telemedicine services means you need to care for them from afar. Whether you are a doctor, a nurse or another healthcare provider, put on your favorite men’s jogger scrubs or jogger scrubs for women, kick back and check out this article to discover some helpful tips that healthcare professionals should keep in mind for telemedicine appointments.
Use High-Quality Equipment
A great telemedicine appointment begins with the right equipment. Your patients need to be able to see and hear you clearly, so you need a high-quality webcam as well as decent sound equipment. If you have a newer laptop with a built-in webcam, you may be good to go on that front. If you’re working with an older computer, though, you will likely need to purchase a webcam. The good news? You can get some pretty great cameras at surprisingly reasonable prices.
Be sure to test out the speakers and microphone on your computer or mobile device before getting on a call. If the sound isn’t crisp and clear, invest in a decent microphone and some good speakers. Again, you don’t have to break the bank, but it is worthwhile to spend some money on high-quality equipment before you start doing telemedicine appointments.
Place Your Webcam at Eye Level
Whether you are using a built-in webcam or an external model, where you place it matters. Ideally, it should be at eye level. This makes it easier for you to maintain eye contact with your patient and stay engaged during the call.
Test Your Equipment Every Day
Once you have high-quality equipment and have it set up, you’re still not quite done. You still need to test your equipment to make sure it’s functioning properly. Ideally, you should check it each morning prior to your first appointment to avoid any unexpected problems during telemedicine calls. Taking some time to check your equipment daily provides an opportunity for you to address any problems before you get on your first call of the day and can help you avoid wasting time during appointments.
When possible, plug your computer or mobile device in while you are on a telehealth call. Video calls can drain your battery faster than you think, and being plugged in ensures you won’t lose power during an appointment.
Also, consider using a wired internet connection instead of wireless. While this isn’t possible when using a mobile device, connecting an ethernet cable to your computer provides a more stable connection than relying on WiFi. Wired connections tend to be faster, and they aren’t as prone to issues as wireless ones, so they can help you avoid time-wasting disruptions during appointments.
Close Out of Unnecessary Programs
Before the start of an appointment, it is smart to close out of any unnecessary programs and/or open tabs on your device. Doing so is recommended for a few reasons. First, video streaming can eat up a lot of bandwidth. The fewer programs or tabs you have open means more resources can be dedicated to streaming. This will likely result in a smoother experience and prevent disruptions caused by your device not being able to keep up.
Second, you’re less likely to get distracted if you don’t have several things running on your device during the call. It’s easy to lose your focus when you are meeting patients virtually rather than in person, so it’s always a good idea to minimize your potential distractions to help ensure you stay engaged.
Find a Quiet, Private Space
Whether you are working from your home office, a hospital or another medical facility or anywhere else, it is crucial to handle telemedicine appointments in a quiet and private location. Eliminate distractions, and work in a space where you are unlikely to be disrupted by noisy kids or pets, other healthcare providers or anyone and anything else.
The space you work in needs to be private, too, to ensure patient privacy. While this is especially important when consulting with patients about potentially embarrassing issues, steps must be taken to ensure confidentiality and privacy even when dealing with mundane cases.
Treat the Virtual Visit Like You Would an In-Person Visit
While you won’t be able to conduct a physical exam, you can largely conduct virtual appointments the same way you would conduct in-person appointments. Review the patient’s file and complaint before the scheduled appointment. When speaking with the patient, ask relevant questions and get a complete history of their current illness.
Maintain eye contact throughout the appointment, and nod along to show you are paying attention. When you need to take notes or if you need to look something up, let your patient know. They may not be able to see what you are doing and will feel like you aren’t paying attention if you seem distracted or disengaged. Communication is extremely important during virtual visits.
Explain What Comes Next
At the end of the appointment, thank your patient for attending a virtual visit, and let them know what steps they need to take next. Whether they need to schedule a follow-up appointment, pick up a prescribed medication or do anything else, make sure they understand what comes next before exiting the appointment.
Consider asking for feedback, too. You can then use your patients’ feedback to make your future virtual appointments even better. Getting used to telemedicine can be tricky, but with these tips, you can engage in productive and efficient virtual appointments with your patients. Whether you enjoy them or not, the inevitable future of telehealth is clear, and now is the time to learn how to make your appointments the best they can be.