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August 01, 2021

How’s your ‘webside manner’?

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Veterinarians offering telehealth services will want to ensure they’re showing their best side when interacting with clients during online visits.

It’s called “webside manner,” the virtual equivalent to a doctor’s bedside manner or demeanor during in-person interactions with a patient or client.

“We’re talking about those verbal and nonverbal cues you give when talking with a client,” explained Dr. Lori Teller, clinical associate professor of telehealth at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. And those cues are just as important during telehealth visits as when meeting face to face.

Dog owner and veterinarian in telemedicine session

Dr. Teller, who is also chair of the AVMA Board of Directors, offered tips for fostering an effective webside manner during a June 3 presentation about telehealth on AVMA Axon. “When you start a visit, you really want to greet the client warmly, perhaps wave or something like that,” she said. “If it’s the client’s first telemedicine appointment, acknowledge that. Tell them it could feel awkward and that’s OK, and you’re happy to work through that.”

“Always start and end appointments with a smile,” Dr. Teller added.

Make sure the client can hear and see you, and find out if there’s something you can do to make the experience easier. You may need to adjust your camera or microphone or talk louder.

Eye contact is especially important during virtual visits.

“When you’re in an exam room, if you look away to take notes or speak with a technician, the client can see why you’re doing that,” Dr. Teller said.

During a telehealth visit, however, all the client sees is you’re no longer visually engaging them.

“They don’t know if you’re distracted or if you’re ignoring them, so be mindful of where your eyes are,” she said.

Dr. Teller recommends informing clients at the start of the visit that you may look away to consult records or to take notes. “It’s important that clients understand that you’re not bored or distracted,” she said.

The AVMA offers resources on telehealth and telemedicine in veterinary practice.