Patients are now choosing virtual consultations to avoid the risk of infection but in the past it has often been more for the convenience. We have a lot of experience supporting patients with telephone and to a lesser extent with video consultations. It obviously doesn’t work for therapies that require physical contact, such as osteopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, sports massage and reflexology. However it works well for assessing patients who require a medical review and discussion of our integrated, holistic and complimentary medical treatments, including nutrition, homoeopathy, herbal and psychological interventions. This article outlines how to make the most of a phone or video consultation and will give some simple guidance the setting up a video consultation if you’ve not done this before.
The main advantage is it avoids you having to come into the practice. It also gives more flexibility on appointments we can offer. The downside is that the person-to-person contact is lost and other aspects of support offered by the practice team as a whole is less apparent. Taking a person’s case history and managing the different complementary and natural interventions we offer can appear a straightforward task. In fact the process we go through is different for every patient and the subtle clues from facial expression, body language and the emotional exchange all contribute to an empathetic, engaging and hopefully empowering consultation. Some of this is maintained by the careful focusing on the voice that can happen in a phone consultation. Although this is greatly enhanced if we are also able to have visual contact through a video consultation. We use several different platforms for video consultation; Skype, Zoom and Doxy.me being the main ones. If you have a reasonable Internet connection either through broadband or through a smartphone this is relatively straightforward to set up. Our receptionist will book your appointment in the normal way and if you’re happy to have a video consultation then depending on the doctors preference we will book you a Skype, Zoom or Doxy.me appointment and provide instruction on how best to connect.
Some other things that we found helpful during a video consultation are:
- Find a quiet and confidential space to speak
- Use headphones if the sound quality is better
- Be ready a few minutes in advance and check that your microphone and audio are working
- Have a phone nearby incase the technology lets us down and we have to revert to a phone call
- Take some time before the appointment to go over what you want to cover. We are interested in all aspects of your well-being and all the different symptoms you might be experiencing. If there is a lot of material you might like to summarise in writing or indeed send it as an email in advance of the appointment so the doctor can have it to refer to during the appointment. Many patients find the time thinking about their appointment on their way to it or in the waiting room is a chance to get their thoughts and priorities in order.
- Even on a video consultation pauses are important, the patient needs to collect their thoughts and feelings. The doctor also has to look things up and reflect on what is being communicated
- Try and ignore your own video image or select it to be turned off – it can be quite distracting to keep catching sight of yourself talking
- Try and ensure your face is well lit and there isn’t too much back lighting. If your face is in shadow is much be harder to read expressions and communication is more difficult
- Be prepared during the appointment to show and talk about your feelings. This can be harder to do over the phone or on video call but is nonetheless required to allow a deeper connection
- Schedule some time so that after the appointment you can reflect on what was said and plan accordingly.
- Several of our doctors work in different practices on different days of the week so don’t forget if booking an appointment for an in-person consultation after a number of phone or video appointments, check the appointment is in the right clinic location for you
Whilst we are happy to offer phone consultations and find they can be invaluable in reviewing treatment we do find video consultations add a dimension to remote working that can be both enjoyable (to patient and doctor. They can deepen the consultation and improve the support and advice we offer. If you normally have a phone consultation then if you have access to the internet why not try a video consultation instead!