How to Prepare for Telehealth Sessions

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Telemedicine is the next evolution for the provision of medical services. Telehealth increases access and specialization while maintaining efficacy and patient satisfaction. It’s also a new medium for many clinicians, however, and with new technology comes growing pains. Below, the seasoned telepsychiatry experts at Orbit Health offer a few tips for physicians to prepare for telehealth sessions.

Prepare a Professional Space

Make sure to treat your telehealth session like any other medical consultation. You would not bring a patient into your living room, or a messy and distracting office. The same rules apply to your telehealth session: Make sure you present a clean, professional environment. Dress appropriately; you shouldn’t be conducting a medical assessment or other clinical session in a t-shirt. Even if you are working from a home office, make sure you present an office environment.

There are also special considerations to keep in mind for the telehealth setting. Set your camera at eye level to avoid odd camera angles. Make sure to limit distractions behind you; it’s best to sit in front of a blank wall, plans, artwork, a bookshelf, or something else plain and innocuous. If your back is to a room full of objects, your patient will be distracted throughout the session. Additionally, it’s important to have good lighting (lighting that comes from in front of you, behind your computer/camera, rather than from behind you) and good sound.

Limit Distractions

In addition to visual distractions, make sure to preemptively take care of any other distractions or interruptions that might arise. If you are working from home, make sure your spouse, children, and other cohabitants know to leave you undisturbed during your session. Keep pets out of the room. Do your best to set yourself up in an isolated space that is not susceptible to any noises outside. Whether taking the call from your home office or your medical office, it’s important to keep the focus on your patient, rather than anything else that might interrupt your session.

Check Your Devices

Technical difficulties are an unavoidable problem whenever utilizing modern technology. The best way to limit their disruptive power is to take a few minutes to check your equipment ahead of time. Whether you are using a desktop computer, tablet or a laptop with a webcam, make sure that all constituent parts are working–the camera, the microphone, the speakers/headphones, the internet, any patient information software, etc. Better to discover a problem five minutes ahead of time and resolve it before the session than find out as the session starts that your patient cannot hear you, wasting their time and yours.

Gather Patient Information Ahead of Time

Another reason to show up five minutes early to your session is to make sure you have all relevant information at hand. If you need to find a patient’s file, either the physical copy or through a digital portal, do so before the session begins. A distracted clinician appears even more distant through the teleconference medium, interrupting the flow of your session and reducing your patient’s comfort and trust.

Be Prepared to Address Telehealth as a Medium

Patients might feel uncomfortable or untrusting of the telehealth setting at first, believing that they will receive a lower quality of service in sessions that are not in person. Be prepared to explain a bit about the efficacy of telehealth. It’s also helpful to just advise your patients to give it time. Simply saying “give it 15 minutes,” and giving them the option of dropping out if they still feel that it’s not working, will help enormously. Most patients will be willing to give it a shot and by the time 15 minutes has passed, their hesitancy will have disappeared.

If you are a healthcare provider or employer who would benefit from a variety of experienced, qualified, and well-rounded psychiatric care specialists, reach out to Orbit Health to discuss your options for telepsychiatry today.

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