Telemedicine is the new norm for veterinary clinics, and in many ways it makes lives easier for practitioners and their clients. But there is one pitfall of this technology – video fatigue. Here’s how to avoid it.
As we continue to navigate the trials and tribulations of a global pandemic, one common subject addressed in blog posts and psychology journals is “Zoom Fatigue” or “videoconference fatigue”. This phenomenon, experienced by those forced to work remotely and in isolation, occurs when one spends the day on camera staring at an array of faces projected on their device screen. This new way of communicating results in numerous stressors, including extended perceived eye contact, delayed and disrupted audio cues, and a decrease in mobility that’s required to remain in view of the camera.
Telemedicine poses unique challenges
As small-animal veterinarians, we have been forced to adapt to pandemic conditions in different ways than those encountered by office workers, but we encounter many of the same issues. Curbside telehealth has been one of the key approaches to building strong relationships with clients while practicing good medicine and maintaining social distance. But spending all day on video in an exam room introduces a new set of challenges and requires a new set of coping mechanisms.
Here at BarburVet we’ve been practicing curbside telehealth for nearly a year, and even after the pandemic is under control we will continue to offer it as an option. We’ve seen tremendous growth in our business and have received ample positive feedback from our clients. We’ve also discovered some tips and tricks for reducing video fatigue.
1. Focus your camera on the animal
One of the biggest differences between telemedicine and Zoom meetings is that in telemedicine you don’t have to be the focus. Keep your webcam pointing towards the animal unless you need to make face-to-face eye contact with your client. Perform the exam as if the client were observing in the room. This will take you out of the spotlight, ultimately allowing you to be more at ease.
2. Minimize the video view of the client
While performing the exam, if you’re not speaking directly to the client you probably don’t need to see their face. Minimizing the client’s video stream will reduce your cognitive load and help you keep your focus. It will also free up the screen space that you need to enter your medical notes.
3. Leave the room but leave the video on
We’ve noticed that clients love watching their animals roam around the exam room when they are left alone. Make sure there is nothing dangerous that the pet might discover, then feel free to walk out and close the door when you need to do some research, draw up some meds, or simply take a break. We often hear our clients talking to their pets through the telemedicine software when we’re not in the room.
Whenever possible, use communication tools and software programs that allow you to perform multiple tasks all in one place. Being able to text your clients, send them links to the telehealth meeting room, look at their medical records and teleconference with them from the same program can save a lot of time and energy.
Adapting to life and work during a pandemic has been an interesting challenge to say the least. But by following these tips to avoid video fatigue, you can use telemedicine to amplify your revenue, build better relationships with clients and enhance your level of patient care in a safe, effective and stress-free way.