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Person on their phone

Telehealth: Avoid Making Technology Assumptions of Your Patients

Telehealth may be new to your patient. Do your best to reduce your assumptions and make them feel at ease.

We base our reality on our own knowledge and experience, and often times, we assume everyone is operating from a similar perspective. When it comes to telehealth, risk managers/patient safety staff often verbalize the commonalities associated with what can reduce risk, such as use a consent, be aware of HIPAA issues, document the interaction, etc.

What we may be guilty of assuming is that patients are well-versed in using their smartphones or even that everyone has a smartphone. Recognizing and addressing these issues will not only mitigate your exposure, but also improve your telehealth interaction. So, let’s take a step back and cover some basics when you are initiating telehealth. 

Basic Checklist

  • Confirm with the patient the type of communication device they will be using:
    • Smartphone
    • Landline
    • Non-smart cell phone
    • Computer
    • Computer with a camera
  • Does your patient have internet access or dial-up?
  • Advise the patient how you will be reaching out to them and how to best use that vehicle of communication.
    • Audio only?
    • Video and audio?
  • Does the patient have FaceTime?
    • FaceTime is a feature built into iPhones;  there is no need to download an app
      • This can confuse the patient, especially if they don’t have an iPhone
      • If patients are new to FaceTiming, suggest they practice with family members
  • Is there any need to recognize literacy/cultural needs relating to interpreters, hearing impaired or needs accessibility resources?
  • Consider whether there is a need to include the primary caregiver. Are they at the same location as the patient?
  • Remind patients to have a pen/pencil available to take notes.

Verifying these things and troubleshooting some issues up front may save both you and your patient from frustration and confusion in the long run, and also preserve your actual telehealth time for working with your patient.

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