Telemedicine has become a critical component of care with the onset of COVID-19. Some providers have embraced the opportunity to visit their patients virtually, but others may be left feeling frustrated by the change. Some physicians may feel uncomfortable with the technology, unable to communicate effectively in a video environment, or disconnected by the distance from their patients.
We’ve put together a list of tips and accompanying online resources that can help providers improve their telemedicine skills, no matter their level of experience.
1) A Complete Plan: Pre-Call to Post-Call
The first step to any successful endeavor is a solid plan. Even if you’ve already begun exploring the possibilities of telehealth, it’s important to review your implementation plan and look for areas that could be improved.
The American Medical Association’s Telehealth Implementation Playbook can help you fine-tune best practices for telehealth providers of any experience level. It’s written for all employees within a practice from physicians to health care administrators. It covers everything from collecting payment to suggestions on vendor evaluation.
Those new to telehealth get a thorough introduction to the care, licensing, and reimbursement logistics and considerations of this tool. The tips in section two will not only help those new to telehealth but also those questioning the foundations of their telehealth practice and open to making improvements. All users stand to gain from the latter half of the book, which gives insight into evaluating your success, partnering with the patient to ensure their needs are met, and a health index to provider resources.
2) Three-Point Lighting
Lighting is a fast way to improve the quality of your appearance via telemedicine, which increases your ability to build a patient/provider relationship. Both patients and providers should be mindful to choose well-lit environments for video calls. You should be mindful to communicate the importance of adequate lighting and video quality in their appointment confirmation communications, but you want to model the best quality lighting to encourage your patients to follow suit. It may not be practical for your patients to copy your lighting set up exactly, but it will reinforce the need for a high-quality call setting, ensuring you have adequate lighting to observe symptoms and make accurate diagnoses.
A simple yet high-quality lighting solution you should utilize is a three-point lighting system. Here, “point” means a source of light, meaning this set up uses three light: a key light, a fill light, and a backlight. An introduction to three-point lighting on the Vimeo blog will give you descriptions of each, as well as suggestions for set up. The post contains both written lists and video examples, allowing you to gain a quick grasp on this telemedicine essential.
3) The Right Outfit
Clothing is another visual factor you cannot afford to ignore as a telemedicine provider. It may not be a factor you typically think about if you’ve primarily practiced in person. Bright colors can shine too brightly on-screen, while dark colors can make you disappear into your background. Busy patterns could potentially distract your patients, and even have a dizzying effect in extreme cases.
Pragmatic’s What to Wear for Your Next Video Conference Interview will help you understand what colors and patterns should be avoided. It’s important to note that even clothing that seems conservative and professional for in-person meetings can translate poorly to telehealth due to an unfortunate camera angle. This article offers tips and helps you consider how the colors, cuts, and patterns of your clothing may interact with the other factors in your environment to make or break the professional look that’s critical to successful telemedicine.
4) A Simple Background
Do you remember “BBC Dad,” who’s young children interrupted his foreign policy interview on live TV? While it’s best to take precautions to avoid having your children, pets, partners, or other housemates make surprise guest cameos on your video calls, your patients will likely be understanding of potential interruptions. This is the new reality we’re all living in due to COVID-19. What they may be less understanding of however is an additional distraction you might have also noticed: office clutter.
A simple design rule makes you look more authoritative on video calls by Quartz takes a look at how clean and simple will always trump cluttered and wrinkled. The article explains how Mr. Kelly broke this rule before the interview even began and shows you how to make all of your telemedicine exams look professional and authoritative. One suggestion is to purchase a video conferencing background. You may want to consider this modest expense if you intend to continue video conferencing long after COVID-19.
5) The Rule of Thirds and Video Framing
When you imagine a film director, do you imagine them holding up their fingers in a square to simulate camera views? Scene composition and camera angle may not win you an Oscar, but it will help you set the right tone for telehealth calls, put your patients at ease, and eliminate potential distractions that could derail the call.
This quick guide to framing by Hoonuit helps you understand how to combine camera angles with scene composition to create winning video framing. The rule of thirds, which instructs you to view every video on a 3×3 grid, is a simple yet powerful tool to perfectly place you in your video feed. It may involve repositioning both your camera and your own body depending on your constraints, but correctly implementing this rule will help your patients focus on the purpose of your call and give you a professional look.
6) Confident Body Language
While the exact percentages are hotly debated, and certainly situationally variant, everyone can agree that body language makes a meaningful impact on the overall message of a communicator. The way you present yourself over video is critical to building rapport and trust with your patients. While this is also true for in-person exams, it’s easy to be lulled into complacency if you’re conducting telehealth calls from your home.
5 Body Language Tips for Better Video Conferences by Highfive gives you deceptively simple advice while diving into the science that makes these practices so monumentally important. For instance, we’ve all been told to “sit up straight,” but have you ever considered how your sitting posture affects the quality of your voice? This article is a short read, but packed full of tips backed by science and statistics that could change the way telehealth sits with you.