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Seniors are Special: Tips for Telemedicine Communication


December 15, 2020

Senior Couple

Remote, Virtual, or telehealth communications are often the only method available for seeking care amidst the COVID pandemic. Population over 65 are roughly 16% of the population, but account for 38% of healthcare spending. They are also the most vulnerable population for COVID, making telehealth an ongoing need. It has never been more vital that workflows are effective, and that technology is insightful, drives efficiencies and is user friendly. In addition the expectation of ensuring that caregivers understand that the basic principle of communication is satisfied; which is that a message is sent to recipient and is understood exactly as intended. This is often overlooked when preparing for a role as a telehealth provider.

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How to communicate with seniors over telemedicine

  • Establish a therapeutic rapport
  • Use only proper forms of address
  • Do not rush!
  • Avoid interrupting
  • Active listening skills
  • No Jargon
  • Be aware of physician esteem
  • Be attentive to hearing impairments

It cannot be stated enough times – Communication Skills can be taught! Let’s focus on some tips for communicating with a more mature or senior patient. Many of the younger people are skilled at communicating via a screen but not always so true for the 55+ age group. Instead of teaching them how to best communicate with their providers, we are going to review some helpful strategies for Providers when interaction with seniors virtually.

The Facts about Effective Communication

  • Prevents medical errors.
  • Strengthens patient-provider relationships
  • Maximizes limited interaction time
  • Propels improved health outcomes.
  • Enhanced Reimbursement
  • Contributes to Organizational sustainability and growth

Establish a Therapeutic Rapport

  • Introduce yourself and your title. “Hello I am Dr Jones” will instantly allay anxiety and create a sense of confidence.
  • Break the ice by training to establish a commonality – the weather, a local sports team, their beautiful name.
  • Respect them as an individual who has a diverse history and a wide range of health care needs and questions.

Use only Proper forms of Address

  • Establish respect right away by using formal language.
  • As one patient said, “Don’t call me Edna, and I won’t call you Sonny!”
  • Don’t underestimate the value of Mr., Mrs., Miss, Minister, Councilman, etc.
  • Validates the patient as an individual
  • Avoid using familiar terms like ‘dear’ and ‘hon,’ which tend to sound patronizing

Do Not Rush!

  • Avoid hurrying older patients.
  • Feeling rushed leads people to believe that they are not being heard or understood.
  • Be aware of the patient’s own tendency to minimize complaints or worry that he or she is taking up too much of your time.

Avoid Interrupting

  • Once interrupted, a patient is less likely to reveal all of his or her concerns.
  • This means finding out what you need to know may require another visit or some follow-up phone calls.
  • By speaking slower, you will give the patient time to process what is being asked or said.
  • This also gives them time to take in and better understand what you are saying

Active Listening Skills

  • Process by which an individual secures information from another individual or group
  • Paying attention to the conversation
  • Make effort and asking the time to understand

No Jargon

  • Try not to assume that patients know medical terminology.
  • Although some terms seem commonplace – MRI, CAT scan, stress test, etc. – some older patients may be unfamiliar with what each test really is.
  • Check often to be sure that your patient understands what you are saying.
  • You may want to spell “diagnoses” or other important terms to remember

Be Aware of Physician Esteem

  • Mature people have held doctors in high esteem and treated the with reverence.
  • Professional Respect
  • They often do not want to “waste the doctor’s time.”
  • Some patients do not ask questions for fear of seeming to challenge the clinician.

Attentive to Hearing Impairments

  • If the person asks you to repeat something more than once, consider the possibility that hearing loss is involved
  • Spell out detailed information clearly
  • Keep telephone messages short and to the point – repeat crucial information
  • Be flexible & patient

Effective communication techniques build more satisfying relationships with older patients and support you in becoming more skilled when managing their healthcare from a remote location. It cannot be stated enough times – Communication Skills can be taught! We are certain these tips for communicating with a more mature or senior patient will support your medical knowledge and expertise.

About Keona Health

At Keona Health, we believe that relationships matter. We know that a clinic’s triage system can test a patient-doctor relationship, especially if a patient cannot easily get the help he or she is seeking. Keona Health offers healthcare software and automation solutions to ease the burden of telephone triage on medical practices and help medical professionals better communicate with patients.

Posted By

Gina Tabone

Gina Tabone, MSN, has 25+ years of experience in telehealth. She has consulted for physicians, health systems, call centers, & other healthcare entities.

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