Many providers recently transitioned from providing the vast majority of care as in-person appointments to offering almost all your clinical encounters online through telemedicine and virtual visits. The transition wasn’t exactly planned; it happened when the novel and highly transmissible coronavirus COVID-19 made it difficult and dangerous to see patients in your clinic.
There are always going to be some hiccups along the way with rapid technology adoption, but you can avoid most of the big issues by preparing in advance for technology-based visits. That means evaluating your “webside” manner the same as you would your bedside manner in person, carefully evaluating how you provide care, and protecting patient privacy and data security. Here are some things you should avoid for better telemedicine visits.
1: Coming in Unprepared
Just like you would review a patient’s chart before you step into the exam room, you should review the patient’s information prior to the start of a telemedicine appointment. Otherwise you are likely to be looking at your computer screen instead of the camera, and not paying close attention to the patient during your visit. Over video chat, even small distractions that cause you to look away from the camera can make patients feel they aren’t the priority.
Additionally, make sure you close all the other windows on your computer so you don’t have emails or instant messages popping up or other dinging sounds and alerts on your screen that could easily distract you from the appointment. Just like when you are in the exam room, your focus should be exclusively on your patient.
2: Forgetting Privacy Concerns
You know all about HIPAA and patient privacy, but the way that you protect patients on a telemedicine visit is going to be different than the way you do it in person. Your clinic is probably set up to prevent someone from overhearing your conversation with a patient in the exam room or walking in on an appointment, and your telemedicine setup should be exactly the same. That means carving out a specific space for telemedicine appointments in an area of your clinic where you can close the door and have complete privacy. Set up a system to alert other staff that you are in a telemedicine appointment so they won’t come into the room or office in the middle of the appointment. Also, make sure the volume on your speakers isn’t up so high that others can hear what you are discussing. Even though telemedicine is convenient because you don’t have to be in an exam room with a patient, never schedule telemedicine appointments when you are away from that secure area (on your phone or a tablet in a public space).
3: Ignoring Your Surroundings
Check all your surroundings prior to an appointment to make sure there isn’t anything that a patient might find distracting (like a brightly-colored wall hanging) or that could get you in trouble (like HIPAA-protected information that is visible on your desk). Wear a white coat or other professional attire just like you would in a normal exam room visit, and stick with plain colors over patterns that can be distracting on camera.
If you quickly implemented telemedicine visits in your practice and need to find better telemedicine software moving forward, talk to AdvancedMD today to see how easy and intuitive our solution is for small and independent clinics.