It’s well-known that a physician’s bedside manner can help him reassure and relate to a patient, but what about “webside” manner? With the growing popularity of telemedicine, the bulk of the attention is given to the technology driving the industry, but providers are finding that their body language cues are taking on entirely new meanings in front of the webcam.
In traditional office visits, for instance, when the provider turns away to make a note, patients think nothing of it because they can still see the provider within the context of the examination room—but if a provider turns aside during a telemedicine call, the patient may be left staring at a shoulder on a screen. Similarly, a doctor’s fidgeting may not mean much in the office, but the intimate frame of the webcam may amplify the perceived awkwardness from the patient’s perspective. These seemingly minor actions, magnified through the medium of the webcam, can be distracting or off-putting to patients while detracting from the provider’s ability to empathize remotely.
And if these concerns alone don’t put enough pressure on physicians to perform admirably, camera-shy providers may find themselves having even more difficulty relating with patients over the Internet. As a result, some clinicians feel perfectly comfortable in the office but become overwhelmed when faced with telemedicine visits.
To combat this issue, telemedicine clinics have begun instructing providers on Internet etiquette with tips such as turning off the picture-in-picture feature can help minimize distractions for the provider so that he or she can focus on the patient. Along these lines, looking directly into the webcam rather than the patient’s image simulates eye contact and helps the clinician connect with the patient.
Webside manner is no more difficult than bedside manner—it’s just a different skillset. As more providers and schools adapt to the use of telemedicine, they will quickly find that a soothing webside manner is just as important as the technology.
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