Technically Speaking: Teletiquette

Last May at ePIG, Jennifer McWilliams, M.D., Children’s Behavioral Health, division chief of Psychiatry and medical director of Virtual Care, had attendees in hysterics as she presented tips, tricks and suggestions for successful virtual care sessions. I asked her to summarize her content for a TechSpeak column, and this is what she submitted.  Dr. McWilliams, take it away!

In March 2020, many of us were thrown headfirst into telehealth — and often with little training — began to see our patients via virtual visits.  As we settle into our new normal through 2021, the one thing that is clear is that Virtual Care is here to stay. With that in mind, I wanted to share some tips and tricks to help make your Virtual Care visits the best possible experience for our patients and families.

  • Turn the camera on—it’s surprising how often this simple step gets overlooked!
  • Remove Clutter – keep the space that’s visible on camera neat and clean so that patients can focus on you and not your clutter.
  • Check your Lighting – make sure you’re not back-lit or have strange shadows falling across your face. If you have windows, keep in mind the lighting will change throughout the day.
  • Test your hardware – it’s always reasonable to ask patients if they can see and hear you well enough.
  • Your Zoom Name is your ID Badge – remember, what you list in Zoom is what patients will see and call you. We recommend including your name and credentials, just as they appear on your ID badge.
  • Introduce Others in the Visit – If anyone else is in the room or on the call with you, such as students, nurses or scribes, introduce them even if the patient can’t see them.
  • Make Eye Contact – remember, you need to look at the camera, not the screen to give the impression of making eye contact.
  • Be Aware of Body Language – patients can only see a limited part of you, so they only see part of your body language. Be aware of what they can – and can’t – see.
  • Pause – sometimes the audio transmission will lag. Take time to pause so patients can respond without you talking over each other.
  • Use Signposting – if you’re doing something that the patient can’t see, such as taking notes or reading their chart, verbalize what you’re doing so they don’t think you’re distracted and not giving them your full attention.
  • Be Yourself – this is the most important – remember Virtual Care is just a tool – be yourself and you’ll be great!

These tips are just as applicable to virtual meetings as they are telehealth visits. And let’s face it—both will be a part of our lives well into the future!  As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to the Virtual Care team.

Me (Stephen) again… if you’d like to get the word out on any tech-related business that interests you, you could be the next TechSpeak guest contributor!  Just let me know. Thanks for all you do!

Oh, and if your patients are moving this weekend, I wish you the best experience possible!

Stephen Dolter, M.D., CMIO

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