As I’m building my own telemedicine company, it’s important that I master the virtual bedside manner. Well, maybe not master it, but I have to make sure that I’m getting across exactly what I aim to get across.
I think most of your guys would agree that our bedside manner in the clinic can make our lives so much easier. If you can match your patient’s energy, if you can maintain a calm and cool demeanor, and make the patient feel that you care, the visit goes smoother.
Virtual Bedside Manner
The virtual bedside manner is very different from what we dish out chairside. The patients can see you smile, they can’t see you thinking, and they can’t see you nodding.
We don’t have emojis 😕 to connect emotionally with the patient. So we have to express ourselves using words or vocables. Without them you’ll leave your patient guessing.
Characteristics of good bedside manners are:
- solid energy
- focused attention
- repeating things back to the patient
- asking plenty of questions
- teasing out what the patient may not want to say
- check in with the patient frequently
- make them feel heard
Before I start a telemedicine shift I watch myself in a video test screen to see how I come across. I want to make sure my eyes aren’t droopy and that I’m not sporting my resting bitch face.
If I’m not doing video visit, I force a smile right before and during the visit. It works because the patient always responds more positively.
I’ll crack a tasteful remark sometimes. Maybe I’ll make fun of the connection or say something else lighthearted – again, always being tasteful.
Connecting with the patient on something like their last name, the city they are from, the work they do, or their area code – any of these things just breaks that stranger barrier even more and adds to a solid virtual bedside manner.
I don’t like doing my telemedicine shifts in a place where I feel distracted. I don’t like cooking while I’m doing telemedicine or working on something else that’s concentration intensive.
Believe me, when you’re even slightly distracted, the patient feels it. And that makes the patient-doctor connection harder. Which just makes your life harder.
If your partner is clunking dishes in the background or there is a conversation that the patient hears, all that will make you seem less professional. The patient will then doubt whether they are really getting your undivided attention.
Frankly, I don’t even like the patient hearing me type when I’m on a telephone visit with them. That’s maybe why I dictate everything. However, my Google Pixelbook keys are incredibly quiet – maybe that’s a better option for you.
Private Telemedicine Practice
For those of you who are interested in building your own private telemedicine practice, your virtual bedside manner is critical. It will improve your word of mouth reach and you’ll increase your retention.
My goal with my private telemedicine practice is to focus on more health coaching and cash-based virtual visits.
Similar to the DPC model and the concierge model, customer service is important. I’m not talking about kissing anyone’s ass. If you have to kiss an ass it’s only because you marketed to the wrong consumer and didn’t choose the right patient.
Selling Your Brand
However cheesy this concept sounds to you, if you’re going to survive as an expert out there in that competitive world, you’re going to have to stand out. You have to have a cohesive message. That’s called a brand. Or a brand identity.
It’s like asking, what are you know for? How would most of your customers describe you? What makes your clients recommend you or keep coming back to you for?
I am convinced that your virtual bedside manner will help you land more patients. You’ll get a much broader reach because of a word of mouth, etc.
Decreasing Malpractice Risk
We all make mistakes as physicians. We help people and we hurt people. You might be the kind of doctor that kind pick up a lot of zebras but it’ll probably be the horse that’ll bring you down.
Being kind to the patient and the patient feeling cared for is a great way to decrease your risk of getting sued.
When you rush a patient visit or you talk down to a patient, and if there is some bad outcome, those are the patients who’ll likely come after you. They want vengeance, they want blood.
But even if you totally blow it clinically, the patient will have a hard time throwing you under the bus if you were patient, caring, and attentive. If you had the perfect virtual bedside manner, your patient will likely give you a pass.
I’ll leave you with a few parting thoughts, specifically focusing on the kind of wording you use to explain things to patients.
- Avoid giving a firm diagnosis to a patient during a virtual visit; without testing it’s hard to know for sure that it’s herpes they had.
- Don’t tell the patient that there is nothing that you can do for them. You’re a clinician, there is always something else you can come up with.
- Don’t say no to a patient. Say yes without saying no. I go through that in detail in my Telemedicine Course.
- Don’t argue with a patient. Instead, offer your best clinical opinion and let them know that you are mostly worried about their health & safety.
- Offer the patient resources. If they don’t agree with your assessment and there is a way for them to get a second opinion, help them obtain that.
- Express understand and empathy for the patient if they are upset for not getting what they wanted.
- Don’t categorize the patient as the chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia or drug seeker kind. Imagine each patient is completely new and unique.