How to build rapport and help health professionals communicate during a pandemic

In October 2020 we had a focused discussion with 14 graduates and 3 youth workers from the National Citizen Service in West Sussex. These are their thoughts and valuable suggestions.
Girl looking sad, holding her phone

The young people took digital engagement to include any engagement that wasn’t face-to-face. This included digital platforms, e.g. zoom, NHS digital consultation platforms, email, phone conversations etc.

Key Points on how to make digital more inclusive

  • Need a timed appointment like face-to-face – as a patient needs time to prepare.
  • Appointments should be longer than normal – need time to build a relationship as the normal welcoming social interactions that would happen when you enter the consultation room don’t occur.
  • Need time to describe the problem (this can be stressful, e.g. what if you don’t get the words right?) With screens, you have to get them angled right so that you can show the problem. And things look different on the screens. But obviously, this could be tricky with the time constraints providers have.
  • Friendly text/email before an appointment – a friendly hello and a guide to what to expect and what they expect would make things easier. This could include a hyperlink to a webpage with more information. This should include:

- Information - Who will be in the consultation as the patient can’t see who’s in the room.
- Reassurance - The only recording will be the notes on your medical records the clinician makes, and you can always get a copy of these – this is normal practice. We don’t record our consultation in any other way.
- Advice - There can be delays in sound and images – we are sorry if this happens and please don’t worry that this is anything other than delays because of the technology. Please feel free to ask us to repeat things, or to let us know if we’ve misunderstood something. If a question makes you feel uncomfortable, say and we’ll try asking for information differently.
- Requests - We’ll ask you to keep your video on, as this helps us to better understand your medical concerns.

  • Need a timed appointment like face-to-face – as a patient needs time to prepare.

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How to build rapport and help health professionals communicate during a pandemic

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