How to Share a Difficult Diagnosis During a Virtual Medicine Appointment

Posted By
Adam Grant

Banty Co-Founder and Medical Director, Dr. Richard Tytus, provided the subject matter and direction for this article. The author would like to thank Adam Grant for his editorial assistance in writing the article. Dr. Richard Tytus takes responsibility for the content of the article.

As a healthcare professional, you are all too aware there will be those appointments in which you are obliged to share a difficult diagnosis with a patient. You understand this type of news is reacted to with a wide range of emotions from anger to sadness, to disbelief, to several others.

This is arguably the toughest part of your job, but one that you know needs to be done in order for next steps to be taken. While relaying this information may not ever get easier, there are effective approaches to doing so.

What’s changed over time, though, is the need to share a diagnosis via a virtual medicine appointment, as opposed to one that’s physically happening at your clinic.

If you are beginning to find yourself in this position during patient video calls, here are some tips on how to deliver a diagnosis within an online doctor visit:

Give Yourself Time

While telemedicine appointments can be quicker than in-person ones, a video conference related to a challenging diagnosis cannot be rushed. As such, it is recommended that you allot extra time with patients receiving such news.

Just like an in-person scenario, patients will need time to process the news and you will need time to prepare them for what’s to happen next. While you may not be physically in the same room, you need to be with this patient in a virtual environment as long as they need you.

Answer All Questions

Most patients – even if a medical ordeal has been lengthy – will have a lot of questions regarding their diagnosis. They will want to know best- and worst-case scenarios, a greater explanation regarding what their diagnosis means, as well as potential treatment options.

For this part of the virtual medicine appointment, it’s imperative that your audio and video settings are working properly. You want to ensure the patient can hear everything being discussed, as well as see you in case results and other such information needs to be presented visually.

Be in a Distraction-free Room

As with all online doctor’s appointments, you want to secure a private, distraction-free room for you to conduct these patient calls from. See that the surrounding area is quiet and there are not any visible items which could encourage a patient’s mind to wander.

If anything, try to make a video call from a room that has a comforting aesthetic to it and makes a patient feel at ease despite the diagnosis they’re now learning about. This could include bright lighting, tranquil office art, or a simplistic, inoffensive virtual background.

Ensure Your Internet Connection is Steady

No matter the video call you are participating in, you do not want the call to cut out due to an unstable Internet connection. This is especially something you do not want to happen during a conversation related to a serious medical diagnosis.

Even if your previous online doctor visits of the day have gone well from an Internet connection point of view, always double check its strength prior to an especially serious patient video call.

Throughout this exercise, you may learn that your Internet strength is not up to par, or your modems and routers need an upgrade. If this in fact the case, be sure to contact your Internet provider regarding better plan options. Also, shop around for new, high-end modems capable of helping you get through tough appointments without any fear of technical glitches.

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Adam Grant

Adam has been a professional, published writer for more than 20 years. He has experience writing about technology, business, music, news, as well as many topics in-between. When not banging away at the keyboard, Adam spins vinyl, obsesses over sports, and takes his dog on giant walks.