Telehealth is something many clinicians and healthcare specialists have become accustomed to in recent years – with thanks, of course, to the COVID-19 pandemic!
But, although we’ve all got used to speaking through screens, those pesky technical difficulties have yet to become a thing of the past. There are a few key things to consider when running a successful audio-visual virtual consultation free from poor connections and cut-out audio. We’re going to lay them out for you in this month’s blog.
According to our medical IT experts, these are the top five things to think about when running a telehealth consult:
1. The audio
The most important part of a telehealth consultation is using a functioning microphone. While most laptop computers come with a microphone, it may not suit your purposes. In the health sector, communication is absolutely critical and you really don’t want patients mishearing you! Speaking far away from the laptop can make the audio come through muffled or inconsistent on the patient’s end. For the best audio clarity, consider purchasing a headset fitted with a microphone arm – like those used in call centres.
2. The visuals
All health practitioners working remotely need a good webcam. If your laptop webcam is low-quality or feels insufficient, there are a range of external accessory webcams available for purchase. It’s also a good idea, if possible, to use a second monitor – that way, practitioners can view their patient on the one screen and access their patient notes as per usual. Always use a virtual background on your telehealth calls, unless you’re sitting in front of a plain wall or an equally neutral space. It’s important to maintain professionalism wherever possible – you don’t want your patients looking at your pile of dirty washing!
3. The check-in
A good tip for any remote healthcare practitioner is to remember to check in once you’re connected with the patient. There’s nothing worse than waiting for someone to finish speaking on a Zoom call only to tell them you didn’t hear anything they just said! Make sure you and your patient can both see and hear each other well before you get into the consultation, and check in again later, too, if you sense something isn’t quite right with your communication. If your connection is breaking up, ask your patient if they mind you turning off your webcam – less strain on the connection should improve the audio quality enough to continue.
4. The network
Make sure your home WiFi network is secure and stable before you start work for the day. So many factors can interfere with your connection from day to day, including the number of people you’re sharing the network with, your distance from the modem and even the weather. You can test your internet speed and connection with a few free online tools – we recommend this one from Telstra. For a good connection, you want to be sure you’re hitting above a 25 Mbps download speed and a 5 Mbps upload speed. If not, you might need to improve your home internet plan!
5. The backup option
Lastly, always have a second source of internet ready to go if your connection fails. Something as simple as a dongle or your own smartphone to hot-spot can be a lifesaver if your network drops out on a call. It’s also a good idea to get an appropriate and up-to-date phone number for the patient at the start of the call in case you can’t get back online at all. That way, you can phone them back and run a good old fashioned telehealth session over the phone if all else fails.
If you manage a clinic and are having issues with your telehealth home set-ups, give us a call – we specialise in business IT solutions for the medical sector and are always happy to help!