The first half of this article focused on the preparatory work you need to take care of before you can safely start practising online. We looked at data security, legal issues and what you should say to the insurance companies in order to proceed. Now it’s time to get down to business and examine how telemedicine should work in practice. Given the longstanding existence of telephone consultations, we’ll concentrate primarily on video consultations.
What to Prepare Before You Provide Any Video Consultation
We talked a lot about preparation in the first half but it doesn’t quite end there. Although you might be ready to go from a theoretical standpoint, you still have a few things to preempt and watch out for before you start any video consultation, not just one with a specific patient. Some issues have the potential to arise regardless of what the consultation is about as they are issues that result from the very format of the consultation.
To ensure all consultations have every chance of going ahead properly, make sure you:
- Send out automated confirmations and reminders, specially tailored to your telemedicine offering
- Share a unique video link with the appropriate patient
- Explain how to download any software or phone app that may be required
- Have a fallback option just in case of technical issues
- Ask patients to “arrive” a little early by clicking the video link ahead of time
- Have a go at using your chosen software yourself so you know what patients can expect
What to Do Before Each Telemedicine Appointment
Being able to provide telemedicine services is not just beneficial for patients who can’t make it to your clinic in person. Telemedicine is also great for you and your colleagues as you don’t have to make your way to the physical premises every day either. However, to guarantee that working remotely is going to be as fruitful as your normal regime, you ought to take a few things into consideration. Here’s what you should bear in mind before each and every online consultation you run:
- Make sure you have a quiet and well-lit space to work from
- Check your audio settings and watch out for feedback
- Look at your face in the camera and ensure that it is properly visible
- Adjust the position of the camera so patients feel you are looking at them
- Try to sit somewhere with a neutral background, e.g. plain painted walls
- Have your practice management system open so you can take notes without averting your eyes from the patient
- Don’t forget a pen and paper as a backup option, but don’t rely on them unless you have to
Handling the Start of an Online Consultation
You are likely to be somewhat nervous during your first couple of online consultations and although it’s something that you will get used to rather quickly, it’s not quite the same for your patients. Many people will have never had an online consultation before, and there’ll be a fair few who have never even used video conferencing tools at all. Bear this in mind for every consultation and take extra special care if you’re dealing with patients who are likely to be uncomfortable with the digital provision of healthcare.
To start off on the right foot with all patients you see online, we advise that you:
- Check whether the patient has any immediate concerns about online consultations and then address each issue one by one
- Explain to the patient how telemedicine works so they can see the benefits
- Do not worry too much about the potential for mistakes made by you or patients
- Try to keep patients on track when discussing issues in detail as online consultations are prone to getting derailed quickly
- Make sure you enter your notes into the patient record on your practice management software as you go along
- Alter your approach if anything seems not to be working right
- Seek feedback from patients pro-actively and do what it takes to improve
- Take extra time to summarise the consultation and assess patient understanding and engagement before you sign off
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