An increase in the number of patients seeking virtual avenues to receive healthcare services has meant many providers must gear up to meet the demand and better serve their patients. Although the influx of individuals seeking remote care are aware that the ways in which their appointments and check-ups are conducted will be different than traditional in-person care, it’s important that healthcare providers do what they can to make the transition to virtual care as smooth as possible.
Some of the common concerns of patients and healthcare providers surrounding remote care include the levels of connection and communication available. With traditional healthcare visits, patients and their healthcare providers meet face-to-face, with few barriers getting in the way of a successful, personable visit. While the same, or higher quality of healthcare visits can be achieved virtually, there are a few elements that must be mastered in order to facilitate seamless, interactive visits.
Here, we’ll cover some tips healthcare providers can follow to improve the remote care experience for patients and more engaging visits:
1. Get Comfortable With Your Virtual Care Platform and All of Its Features
Navigating new technology can be intimidating, even for the most tech-savvy individuals. For this reason, it’s important that healthcare providers become comfortable with their virtual care platform and the technology that keeps it running. In doing so, providers will not only be able to solve technological issues as they arise but will also be able to guide patients if they are facing troubles with their technology, all while keeping them engaged in their healthcare visit.
Learning a new healthcare system or process can also be challenging for healthcare staff, and will require some additional training on their end. To ensure your healthcare organization is able to seamlessly adapt to the changes in care delivery, familiarizing them, and yourself with the various components of your virtual care solution is essential. When all members of a patient’s care team and the patient themself are comfortable using the telehealth platform, creating personal and strong relationships is achievable. Conversely, if a patient or member of their care team is not able to properly navigate the platform, a remote visit will likely be unsuccessful, which can negatively impact the quality of care a patient receives and adversely affect their health progress.
Depending on the solution your organization chooses to utilize, there will be different features available for use. Some common features that healthcare providers look for in a telehealth platform include video conferencing, secure messaging, clinical workflows, and educational resources for patients. By becoming comfortable with all of the features your organization chooses to utilize, you can minimize errors and reduce wait times for patients, leaving more time to personally connect.
2. Encourage Patients To Turn On Their Camera
There are a number of ways patients and healthcare providers can connect for their remote appointments. Some may choose a phone call, while others may communicate through instant messaging or video chat. While all of these options are convenient, video chats have the ability to increase engagement due their “face-to-face” nature.
One of the key benefits of meeting through video is being able to communicate effectively. We as humans are naturally drawn to visual cues when communicating, and can often get a better sense of what a person is trying to say when we see their facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language. One study found that at least 70% of communication is non-verbal, and many experts agree that this type of communication is essential to forming genuine connections.
To ensure patients are able to join virtual appointments with video, healthcare providers should make use of a virtual care platform that is able to work with various devices. Platforms such as aTouchAway for example can be used with nearly any smartphone or tablet, which most adults have access to today. Patients can then use the camera on their device to instantly connect with their healthcare provider face-to-face. By encouraging patients to use their camera, healthcare providers can build strong, meaningful connections that transcend traditional remote-care boundaries.
3. Communicate Effectively
When transitioning to remote care, it may take some time for patients to become used to the new ways they communicate with their care circle. One of the most important things providers can do to maintain a positive patient-provider relationship, and ease patients into feeling more comfortable communicating is ensuring patients feel well-connected. To do so, physicians and other care team members should maintain regular communication with their patients through various channels.
Telehealth platforms can be a great tool for communicating with patients, even outside of virtual appointments. With features like secure messaging and file-sharing, healthcare providers can regularly check in on patients, send appointment reminders, or share important health resources. Furthermore, letting patients know that they are able to send an instant message to their care team through the telehealth platform if they have any questions or health concerns can be a great way to make them feel more comfortable communicating through the platform.
When conducting virtual appointments, it is also important that healthcare providers work on their remote communication skills. Given that there is physical distance between a patient and provider, it can sometimes be difficult to properly convey emotions, such as empathy and understanding. Some communication tips healthcare providers can follow include looking into the camera rather than looking at the screen to maintain the feeling of eye contact, communicate what they are doing if they are looking away from the camera (i.e taking notes), and regularly asking the patient if they have any questions.
Personalizing the Remote Patient Experience
Delivering care that feels personal is always important when trying to build strong patient-provider relationships. With the use of telehealth platforms and the various applications available for communication, it’s easier than ever to form meaningful connections, even when meeting face-to-face is not feasible. By familiarizing yourself and staff with the technology used in virtual care, using video chat, and practicing strong communication, patients will have a better overall remote patient experience.