Tania Elliott, MD, a telemedicine provider who specializes in immunology, says preparing for a video visit with a patient is a lot like setting up for a TV broadcast. “Set up your computer in front of a bookshelf or a wall with a painting — you don’t want your camera to face a door, since it gives the patient the sense you might leave,” she says. “And always wear your white coat and make sure your face is framed with the camera.
Elliott has trained hundreds of doctors on remotely setting the stage for connection and trust during her work as medical director for Doctor on Demand, a pay-per-visit telehealth service. Now, as Covid-19 strains clinics and hospitals, more and more doctors are being forced to pivot their in-person practices to telehealth. And as they rush to implement new technology, they’re also learning about what Elliott calls “webside manner.”
There’s plenty of evidence that shows patients’ health outcomes are often only as positive as the patient-provider relationship. Good doctor-patient communication doesn’t just create more enjoyable doctor’s appointments; it can also promote better adherence to medications and lifestyle adjustments, and, ultimately, less pain and better overall health.
The ability to effectively communicate the ins and outs of a complicated procedure is one important layer of that relationship, but soft skills like empathy and compassion play an equally important role in establishing bedside manner.
Melissa Hawkins, PhD, an epidemiologist and director of the Public Health Scholars Program at American University, says whether in an exam room or over Skype, subtle cues like facial expressions and tone of voice can make or break a trusting relationship between patients and doctors.
“The onus is on the provider to create an atmosphere where they’re able to demonstrate that they understand and hear the patients’ experiences and fears,” says Hawkins. “It’s so important to establish that at the beginning of the encounter.”
ER video conferencing adds protective distance between a patient and…