4 ways to foster trust in telehealth for patients

Trust can be harder to establish between patient and provider in a virtual care setting. Here are recommendations to establish these elements, according to a March 24 article published in Harvard Business Review.

Four elements create trust: competence, logic, empathy and reliability. A telehealth provider will need to integrate these elements into their care to create a similar level of trust that patients experience during in-person care visits.

Here are four elements of trust and how to establish them in telehealth:

  1. Competence
    It can be harder to establish credibility if there is no eye contact between patient and provider, or if the background is informal or sloppy. Telehealth providers should ensure their surroundings are clean, professional and brightly lit. They should look directly into the camera so it appears they are giving eye contact. Lastly, repeating phrases back to the patient shows empathy and assures the patient the provider understands what the patient is saying.

  2. Logic
    Patients want to feel that a provider remembers them. Telehealth allows providers to look at the patient and records simultaneously. However, slight breaks in eye contact are noticeable. Instead, the article suggests a provider share their screen with the patient to talk through the patient's record.

  3. Empathy
    Since physical contact is not possible in virtual care, listening is how providers can convey empathy. Instead of turning off the microphone, the article suggests verbal cues of listening like "mm-hmm." As an alternative to using medical jargon, providers should speak on a patient's level so the patient feels heard.

  4. Reliable
    Being on time to visits is a crucial way to portray a provider as reliable. Providers should be prepared to have an alternative phone number to call a patient if the video call is experiencing glitches. If technical problems continue, the article suggests getting the names of nearby support people who can assist the patient with technological barriers.

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