Webside Manner during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Maintaining Human Connection during Virtual Visits

Isaac S Chua, Vicki Jackson, Mihir Kamdar
Journal of Palliative Medicine 2020, 23 (11): 1507-1509
Background: As the death rate numbers in the United States related to COVID-19 are in the tens of thousands, clinicians are increasingly tasked with having serious illness conversations. However, in the setting of infection control policies, visitor restrictions, social distancing, and a lack of personal protective equipment, many of these important conversations are occurring by virtual visits. Objective: From our experience with a multisite study exploring the effectiveness of virtual palliative care, we have identified key elements of webside manner that are helpful when conducting serious illness conversations by virtual visit. Results: The key elements and components of webside manner skills are proper set up, acquainting the participant, maintaining conversation rhythm, responding to emotion, and closing the visit. Other considerations that may require conversion to phone visits include persistent technical difficulties, lack of prerequisite technology to conduct virtual visits, patients who are too ill to participate, or who find virtual visits too technically challenging. Conclusions: Similar to bedside manner, possessing nuanced verbal and nonverbal webside manner skills is essential to conducting serious illness conversations during virtual visits.

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