6 Tips for Improving Your Telehealth Webside Manner

Jul. 07, 2020

How to Translate Compassion Onscreen


Every day, you’re amazed at the compassion and empathy demonstrated by your organization’s providers. You see how they advocate for their patients. You see the compassion in their eyes, their reassuring smile, or how they comfort a patient or family member in a time of need. You know, that amid all the stresses of reimbursement, insurance and bureaucracy, your providers’ focus is where it should be: on their patients.

I certainly see this amazing connection to patients in our daily work. However, as we’ve been working with our clients on implementing telehealth solutions for primary care, I’ve noticed that sometimes, unknowingly, our otherwise empathetic providers lose some of their bedside, or in this case, “webside,” manner. 

Even though telehealth appointments are increasing in popularity, video conferencing etiquette can be a challenge to some providers. How do you translate personal connection from in-person to on a screen?  Here are a few tips that may serve as a helpful reminder:

  • Demonstrate empathy. The core tenets of an ideal bedside manner also apply to webside manner: ask open-ended questions, be honest, be respectful, and offer reassurance. Of course, our providers do this instinctively in their in-person visits, but sometimes, maybe due to being uncomfortable with video visits or being distracted with the technical components, they temporary lose sight of identifying with the immediate emotional needs of their patients.

  • Practice intentional listening. It can be easy to tune out when you know what's coming. If you’re seeing some repetition in the types of cases you’re dealing with, you may predict the next patient question or start daydreaming when the patient mentions familiar symptoms. To stay focused, listen with the intent to paraphrase and use your own words to repeat back what you hear the patient say. Be sure patients feels like you clearly understood them and their situation.

  • Eyes on the camera. Despite being virtual, video, if done correctly, can be a powerful tool in forming a personal connection as pointed out in the recently shared video by Dr. Tania Elliot called “How to Conduct a Professional Telemedicine Visit Using Good Webside Manner.” Now, in order to accomplish the goal of achieving a personal connection, you need to look at your computer's camera. Trust me, this takes some practice, as I’m learning by transitioning from in-person interactions to doing more presentations and client visits virtually. Try to get in the habit of glancing at the camera occasionally, rather than focusing on the patient's eyes on your monitor. Again, practice this one. It’s harder than it sounds, however, it’ll make a significant difference for your patients.

  • Use positive body language. Nod your head to acknowledge understanding. Maintain an open chest and lean forward in interest rather than adopting defensive postures like crossing your arms or leaning back and sit it up straight. These subtle adjustments can make a world of difference in how you come across on camera.

  • Watch your hands. Hands can be used to emphasize, but too much hand motions can be distracting. And depending on your camera's frame of view, your hand motions may be cut off.

  • Avoid tapping and fidgeting. Some people naturally doodle, click a pen, or simply like to hold something while on the phone. This can be distracting to a patient, especially if your computer's microphone is sensitive and can pick up subtle room noises.

Ultimately, your webside manner is just as important as your bedside manner. So please, take advantage of these tips to connect with your patients during telehealth or other virtual visits.

Mike is President of Legato Healthcare Marketing, which operates DocOutsideTheBox, a telehealth consulting division formed to help healthcare organizations develop, implement and market telehealth solutions.  Learn more at www.docoutsidethebox.com.