Communicating At A Distance: Virtual Interactions


The anticipated rise of technology and AI in our healthcare systems has been a feature of many medical advancement articles.

However, the sudden and immediate use of technology that the COVID social distancing measures have embedded within healthcare, will continue to be transformative when our societies relax social distancing controls.

One example of this new technology is the triaging of patients using virtual consulting rooms, and often the ability to diagnose and manage that patient via a video interaction.

Virtual interactions with patients existed pre-COVID but their presence was scattered amongst innovative and progressive general practices or within private clinics. The widespread use of technology within the NHS and community settings is unprecedented.

One of the fundamental skills of general practitioners is being able to communicate on many different levels with their patients. Interpreting subtle verbal and non-verbal cues is essential and can help the clinician understand an individual patient’s need.

General practitioners are now having to adapt these skills to communicate with patients, and each other, on virtual platforms. This is why at the University of Buckingham Medical School we feel comfortable in converting our MMI interviews for medical school into digital MMIs; our selection procedures are mirroring the professional attributes and skills required of medical professionals.

This blog will help you to identify the key skills you should focus on to become an expert communicator at a distance.

1. Eye contact and active listening

All communication specialists will talk about eye contact and non-verbal communication skills, but technology makes it impossible to look directly at someone’s eyes, so how is this achievable in a video meeting?

In essence, it isn’t but it can mimicked:

2. Body awareness 

Whilst thinking about your eyes, don’t forget the rest of your body. As in physical conversations, body language can provide non-verbal cues to your audience. 

3. Distractions

Distractions come in many forms and some are impossible to avoid but many, with appropriate planning, can be eradicated. 

Overall, communicating at a distance is very similar to physical communication. You should embrace and understand the advantages of video conferencing technology and allow it to help you to communicate effectively at any distance.

Written by Dr Joanne Selway, Senior Lecturer and Selection Lead for the Medical School at the University of Buckingham

Other COVID-19 articles to check out:

5 Things To Do From Home To Support Your Medicine Application

Staying Motivated During Lockdown

COVID-19 – The Best Work Experience Alternatives


Loading More Content