Preparation is key

Not all patients are the same, therefore you need to clearly establish guidelines to prioritize when setting appointments, based on patient conditions and related risks. It is normally convenient to dedicate a time block for the daily remote consultations, instead of planning them sparely during the day; also consider to reserve a minimum of 10 minutes every two hours for standing up and do some physical activity.

Consider a 10% to 15% time contingency for every consultation in order to have room for… (e.g. allocate a slot of 45 to 50 minutes for consultations that you estimate taking 40 minutes). Spacing the patients out will allow you to keep up to speed with urgent online/phone throughout.

Preparing the patient

When calling the patient to arrange the appointment slot, remember that older or vulnerable patients may need assistance. For this reason, check if the time slot is appropriate not only for the patient, but also for family member or assistants that you will authorize to join during the consultation. Patients, carers and family may also require more reassurance and guidance, and additional time and resource may be required for this process.

Ask the patient to do some preparation work. Consider issuing a pre-call questionnaire where patients could ‘self-score’ their performance status, or other information may be useful for you to know, via online or via email so these are available for the appointment. Together with the questionnaire, send the patient a guide to virtual appointments and the link to the appointment slot. Also take and confirm the patient's phone number and email address as emergency plan, in case the video link fails. 

Instructions to the patient shall include:

  • Minimum technical requirement: recommended computer/phone, operating system requirements, software to install, how to test the technology, troubleshoot instructions. 
  • Environmental recommendations: use a private, quiet, well-lit room with frontal light. 
  • Ask the patients to make a list. Recommend that patients write down a list of two or three issues they want to address, so they won't forget anything important. 

Your preparation shall include:

  • A scripting for appointment: this will help you to easily follow the time schedule, and improve where to improve your time management in case you tend to overrun the allocated time slots. 
  • Focus your preparation in particular on introduction and appointment summary to ensure consistency and effective time management, and the patient understands any action/output from the appointment. 
  • Ensure you have access to the patient's clinical record and, ideally, have it available on a second screen. 
  • Check that the technology is working.

Friendly reminder

Always remember to send the patient a reminder through SMS or phone call some time in advance. Some people don't check emails and tend to connect late if they are not prompted shortly prior to the remote consultation.

Pro tip: remind your patient