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Establishing Physician-Patient Relationships Via Virtual Visits

In the era of digital communications what defines a successful physician-patient relationship? Can physician-patient relationships be established solely through virtual visits or is it crucial to establish it in-person before taking it online? What are the rules for developing a great physician-patient relationship via virtual visits? 

Currently accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of traditional in-clinic visits are declining while virtual and remote healthcare is rising in popularity. Various factors contribute to this decreasing number of visits to a physician’s office including the on-going pandemic, poor access to healthcare facilities in rural areas, and insufficient workforce.

In order to provide continuous care, reach out to your patients with poor access, remain competitive, increase revenue, and most importantly maintain relationships with your patients, it becomes imperative that you as a healthcare provider dive into the arena of telemedicine.

So, what is telemedicine?

Telemedicine involves using technology to allow for remote consultation, management, and health monitoring without requiring your patients to come in for an in-house visit. It also involves remotely providing other health-related services like prescription and lab management as well as distributing health-related information so that your patients get the best of care and information about their health at all times. 

But, how do you establish a relationship with your patients through remote care technology?

A prior relationship between the physician and patient is a must

Telehealth is still a new concept even to physicians in many parts of the country. Hence, it is quite unfair to ask patients to experiment with their health using an unfamiliar technology with possibly an unfamiliar physician. 

One of the best ways to encourage telehealth adoption is by giving your patients a familiar face and voice on the other side of the screen – by. This can be accomplished by first seeing your patients in person if feasible. When you establish familiarity in such a manner, it will help your patients feel more comfortable in sharing their personal medical details with you-something they may not want to share with a new virtual physician.

By first connecting with patients virtually as an unfamiliar on-call physician, you lose out on the valuable relationship factor (the trust and knowledge) which is crucial to establishing a successful physician-patient relationship.

Ensure patients understand how the technology works

Technology opens the door to better patient experiences and better patient engagements, but this is true only if the patient understands the telemedicine tools. 

Virtual visits often include the use of smartphones, laptops, or PCs that helps patients connect with physicians online. Once you decide to offer telemedicine services, discuss with the patient the advantages of telemedicine and how to use it, if possible during an in-person visit. 

It is always better to start by offering simple services that are easy to use. For instance, primary care physicians can use it to provide medication refills, diabetes check-ins, and blood pressure follow-ups while; surgeons might find it beneficial for preoperative and postoperative visits. 

Additionally, choose a platform that makes it easy for patients to sign up. The fewer steps patients have to take, the smoother the things will go. The simplest way to ensure this happens would be to have patients enter through your practice’s portal and pick a time. 

Present yourself as you do when you see patients in the office

Even when you are offering virtual visit services, dress as you do when you see a patient in-person. Remember that excessively bright or dark colours, checks, pinstripes, and other intricate designs will create disturbing patterns on the screen.

To develop a good physician-patient relationship via virtual visits, you need to feel comfortable with your video presence. So before the scheduled appointments, put the video in record mode and rehearse in front of the camera. Though it may take many rehearsals before you feel comfortable with your appearance, it will help you see how you come across on the screen.

Always be punctual for tele-appointments. Be inviting, nod every so often when your patients are speaking, ask questions, and maintain eye contact with them. Rather than looking at the patient’s image on the screen, look into the camera lens, and let your patients know when you have to look away to consult the record or write orders.

Piece together the virtual physician-patient relationship puzzle

Originally designed for use in rural areas, telemedicine is quickly being adopted and used extensively by hospital systems, large group practices, and online telemedicine providers. An amazingly useful tool for practices, telemedicine increases access to healthcare services, keeps the physician-patient communication alive, and offers new and convenient ways for patients to interact with their trusted medical provider. It is also a convenient way for you to retain your current patients and attract new ones.

If you are planning for telemedicine, first determine whether your patients will actually use it, and how they will use it. Then find the right telemedicine tools and integrate them into your practice. You can start by offering a few services like follow-ups or refills, and then expand from there.

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