With many healthcare services moving online during the COVID-19 pandemic, many GPs have now found that online GP video consultations are a great option for treating minor conditions. Not only does it save time and is more convenient for the patient, it also frees up valuable time that the doctor can spend on patients that need their attention more. The kind of conditions that can be treated through a video consultation include colds, therapy, skin conditions or any other condition that does not require a physical examination.
But in order to make your video consultation with your patient go as smoothly as possible, there are a few things you need to take care of before and during your consultation. After all, the safety and satisfaction of your patient should be your top priority. Here are a few tips for a successful GP video consultation:
1. Physical Examinations
While video consultations may help you see the patient and make a diagnosis, for several conditions, it becomes necessary to conduct a physical examination. Not all issues can be dealt with remotely. On the other hand, technology issues, such as a poor internet connection, lagging or poor quality video and voice disruptions can cause you to not be able to hear or see the patient properly enough to make a diagnosis. In such a case, it may be appropriate to ask the patient to come into your clinic so you can examine them in person.
2. Planning ahead
Before any video consultation, ensure both you and your patient have the necessary requirements for a smooth call. This may include ensuring you both have the time and date correct, a link to the platform where you will be conducting the call (Zoom, Skype etc.), as well as a stable internet connection.
3. Setting up
Before starting your first video call of the day, ensure the following:
- Location: Choose a place in your house, or your clinic where the background is not too distracting.
- Camera framing: Similarly, it is preferable to place your device in landscape mode, as that offers a more natural view of you, rather than in portrait mode where you may look too close to the camera and very ‘in your face.’ Ideally, the patient should be able to see your face and the top half of your body so any gestures you make are visible to the patient.
- Privacy: Even during a video consultation, the same rules of patient-doctor confidentiality apply. Make sure no one enters the room you are consulting from and that background sounds do not interfere with either your or your patient’s ability to hear each other properly.
- Dressing: It is very important to dress professionally, or at least just the top half of your body that will be visible on camera. It may be a video consultation you are conducting from your house, but it is still a professional environment.
- Lighting: To make sure that your patient can see you properly, sit in a well-lit place, keeping the source of light in front of you or to a side.
Once the consultation begins, introduce yourself and ask your patient for their introduction, just as you would in an in-person consultation.
5. Pacing Cues
When you are consulting remotely, it can often be difficult to see the non-verbal cues your patient is giving out. There may be a lag in the video, or the audio may not be as loud or clear as in person. Additionally, non-verbal cues do not always translate as well on screen as in person. For example, a nod, or ‘uh-huh’ can be annoying or distracting if it is delivered late due to a lag in the video.
To minimise the effects of these problems, try and keep your vocal cues to a minimum. Switch to nodding slowly or smiling, and show that you are actively listening to the patient through your facial expressions and by maintaining eye contact through the screen. Don’t talk over the other person, and only start speaking once you’re sure the patient has stopped speaking.
6. Maintaining eye contact
If you’re looking at the image of the patient on the screen, you’re not actually maintaining eye contact with them. This is because your camera is in a different location than the image on the screen, and to the patient, it can seem like you’re not paying attention or looking elsewhere. To maintain eye contact with your patient, look straight into your webcam or device’s camera.
7. Check for understanding
Once you have successfully conducted the consultation and completed your examination, summarise your findings and quickly check if your patient has understood everything. Go over the prescription and directions once again and ask the patient if they have any further questions. Try not to hurry them, it can take some people a few seconds to register information and formulate a question.
Many telehealth services allow patients to organise follow-up GP video consultations with you through a few quick steps. Before signing off, let your patient know if they will need a follow-up consultation and after how long they need to see you again. This will help them make another appointment around the time you suggest.