4 Tips to Improve Your Webside Manner: Best Practices for Virtual Patient Engagement

How to Better Connect With Your Patients Through the Screen

Sep 10, 2020 · Doximity Insider

This shift to telemedicine has forced many healthcare professionals out of their traditional clinical settings and into an unfamiliar digital world. With more physicians using telemedicine solutions like Doximity Dialer Video to easily reach their patients, physicians are learning to adapt traditional approaches of administering care in a new digital paradigm brought on by COVID-19.

With the transition to virtual care, "webside manner" is the new "bedside manner”. Studies show that good bedside manner has a positive effect on patient health outcomes and poor bedside manner is the number one patient complaint. Webside manner, or delivering patient-centered, compassionate care digitally, is just as critical as bedside manner in developing trust and open communication with your patients.

There are steps to consider prior to, during, and following a telemedicine session that will help you communicate as effectively with your patient as if you were in the same room. By implementing a few webside manner best practices, you’ll be able to establish meaningful connections with your patients, even when they’re remote.

Plan Ahead to Avoid Technology Issues

Ensure your technology is working properly, testing your webcam, microphone, speakers, headset, and any other hardware devices required for your virtual session. Similarly, verify that your internet and wireless quality are adequate and that you have fallback options just in case you experience technical difficulties. For many patients, using technology is a daunting ask; ensuring your patients can see and hear you is the first step in practicing good webside manner.

To that extent, consider your patient’s needs - is this the first time they’re using a telemedicine platform? If so, you might want to provide them with some helpful articles to walk them through the process. For less-technology enabled patients, build some time into your schedule for technology issues - visits may take a little bit longer until everyone gets used to the process. Doximity Dialer Video was designed for physicians and patients who don’t want to worry about the technology hiccups that plague most of the existing telemedicine platforms. With just one click, patients can join their telemedicine call (no additional download needed and accessible on any device). There’s also a helpful Call Nudge feature anytime you need to remind or help your patient join their call.

Display Empathy Virtually

The expression of empathy can be difficult in virtual settings, but nonetheless very important. One way to practice empathy in a telemedicine session is through nonverbal cues such as leaning forward to convey engagement or nodding your head to demonstrate active listening. Be just as careful to not communicate the wrong message as well - having poor posture can communicate disinterest, while raising your eyebrows while thinking can unintentionally make you appear angry. Remember to always be intentional with your nonverbal cues to strike the right empathetic tone.

Verbally acknowledging what the patient is feeling or going through is also important. Practice active listening by summarizing what patients say by reflecting on their statements; statements such as, “I understand what you’re going through” or “I’m sure that felt frustrating” builds trust between you and the patient, which then allows for a more open and honest conversation about a patient’s symptoms and experience.

Provide a Patient-Centered Technology Experience

Leverage Doximity Dialer Video’s advanced features to enhance your patient's experience. You can better explain a patient’s health condition and provide a visual experience by reviewing their medical documents such as an x-ray or lab result with them via a screen share option. Similarly, you can conveniently add a third party such as a translator, healthcare professional, or family member of the patient should the need arise. Leveraging features like these, you can use technology to provide an added layer of convenience and personalization to the patient experience.

Be Mindful of Your "Tele-Etiquette"

Vocalize your actions: If you’re looking away from the camera to look at a chart or input a note into your EHR, be sure to tell your patients you are doing that so they feel you’re engaged with them. When in doubt, over communicate. It’s important for your patients to not feel ignored, especially as they are getting used to a new technology.

Maintain patient eye contact: Even though you can’t actually make eye contact since you aren’t in the same room, by looking directly into the camera you appear to be looking into the patient’s eyes. Make sure to adjust the camera position relative to the screen view of the patient to ensure optimal placement of your eyesight

Don’t eat or drink during your virtual session: A simple sip of water can be amplified into a loud slurp if you’re too close to your microphone - treat virtual visits the way you would in-person visits.

Converting Bedside Manner to Webside Manner

With the increased need for telemedicine due to COVID-19, healthcare professionals are in a unique position to navigate patient relationships. While telemedicine has certainly created new dynamics between the patient and the clinician, the need for patients to be heard and understood remains the same. As healthcare delivery continues to emerge with technology, adapting your communication style and focusing on active listening will empower you to develop stronger relationships with your patients and improve their health outcomes.

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