- Queen's Institute of Healthcare Improvement
Importance of Expressing Empathy Through Telemedicine
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth and telemedicine has become the most common medium to bridge the gap between patients who are unable to visit healthcare providers and the treatment they seek. However, due to the accelerated switchover to virtual care, the best practices have yet to be made consistent among healthcare providers.
Silvia Perez-Protto, MD, MSc, FCCM, has been a virtual care provider for many years, and discussed ways to express empathy through a virtual platform; explaining why expressing empathy matters for both patients and healthcare providers.
Why is expressing empathy so important?
Beginning with a definition, empathy is the awareness to respond to a person’s perspectives and emotions. Empathy has been demonstrated to improve patient health outcomes through lowering stress and anxiety, while simultaneously helping the caregiver. With this said, recognizing and proactively addressing a patient’s emotional response strengthens the patient-physician relationship. This is much easier done in a face-to-face setting than through a virtual platform. It is necessary that healthcare providers recognize the barriers to expressing empathy during a virtual encounter and identify ways to overcome these obstacles.
Some tips for how to effectively express empathy through telemedicine include:
Having an open posture, leaning forward to show attentiveness
Use facial expressions to convey caring, concern, and curiosity
Maintain eye contact by looking at the camera and not the image of the patient on the screen
Use open-ended questions to provide the opportunity for patients to express themselves
Embrace pauses in the conversation to give patients time to react or respond to avoid rushing
These are ways to support, acknowledge, validate patients’ concerns by making the most out of virtual communication. Click here to read the full Institute for Healthcare Improvement article.
Summary by: Stefania Coroneos