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A Quick Guide for Dietitians Offering Telehealth Nutrition Counseling (FREE Checklist)

Dietitians are now offering more telehealth nutrition counseling services than ever before. This leads to exciting new opportunities, but it can also lead to feeling overwhelmed.

Have you wondered how to set-up your computer and work-space for your virtual appointment visits? This post will guide you through the process, including lighting, camera set-up, and how to make the most out of your telehealth visits.

Read on to learn more!

Before the Telehealth Nutrition Counseling Appointment

Here are a few tips to help you get off on the right foot with your patients.

  • Be friendly and engaging.
  • Explain what to expect during a virtual visit.
  • Ask them to prepare for the appointment:
    • Have medication/supplement lists and questions/concerns ready.
    • Be fully dressed.
  • Ask if they have questions about the process.
    • Develop resources to help them connect to your virtual appointments, if needed.
  • Confirm understanding of the appointment process.
Image of an office

Setting Up Your Environment

The bright appearance of your workspace can greatly improve the vibe of your virtual appointments. The tips below can help you with lighting, décor, and how to set-up your camera for the best patient experience.

Lighting

  • Ensure that the room is well-lit.
  • Use natural light if possible. This will limit shadows.
    • The best lighting is diffuse, soft fluorescent.
  • The light source should be in front of you.
    • When lighting is behind you, more shadows appear.
  • Use blinds or window shades to protect privacy and control the amount of sunlight entering a room.
  • During the appointment:
    • Check to see if your patient can see your face and not just the outline of your body.
    • Make sure you can see your patient too.

Walls and Background

  • Keep your background plain & simple – “busy” backgrounds can be distracting.
  • Neutral, solid colors for the wall (beige, white, grey) can improve picture quality.
  • Consider using a backdrop cloth, if needed.
  • Avoid personal images in the background to protect your privacy.
  • Avoid symbols in the background to maintain a neutral tone.

Camera

The placement of your camera is important.

  • External webcams attached to your monitor provide a better patient experience. Laptop cameras are often not at a poor angle (angled up) and can offer an unflattering or uncomfortable view.
  • It’s best to have the webcam at eye level (if possible) or only slightly above eye level (tilted slightly downward at you).

Camera Framing

  • Sit a comfortable distance from the camera.
  • Don’t sit too far above or below the camera.
  • Use self-view to check your framing.
  • If you have more than one computer monitor, set the camera directly over the screen you will be looking at.
  • Limit big movements to be sure you remain in the video frame
  • Avoid looking down at your desktop. When you do this, your patient will only see the top of your head.
Image of a woman

Preparing Yourself for the Telehealth Nutrition Counseling Appointment

Great! Now you have your environment ready to go. It’s time to get yourself ready. The tips below will help you show up as your best self for your telehealth nutrition counseling appointment. You got this!

Provider/Dietitian

  • Hair should be clean and nicely groomed.
  • Wear professional clothing.
    • Clothing should be light or neutral colored.
    • Avoid logos on clothing, patterned fabric, striped shirts, white coats and/or bold colors.
    • Stark white clothes can cause difficulty balancing contrast on camera.
    • Very bright clothes can cause a clinician’s face to wash-out on screen.

Eye contact

  • Eye contact is extremely important.
  • Make eye contact often by looking directly at the camera.
  • Look into the camera when possible: When you look into the camera, it will appear to your patient that you are actually looking into their eyes.
    • Look at the camera when asking a question.
    • Look at their face on the monitor when they respond.
    • Alternate your gaze between the camera and the monitor when they are talking to you.
  • Use the picture in picture (PIP) function so you can be aware of your presence during the session..
  • Let your patient know you will be taking notes during the appointment. If you are looking down without explaining this, they may get the impression you are not interested in what they are saying.

Verbal communication

  • Ensure you and your patient can see, hear, and understand each other.
  • Speak deliberately, and slow the pace of your speech.
  • Speak up! Make sure they can hear you.
  • Use complete sentences and pause when you are done.
    • In normal conversation, there is a natural “give-and-take” where a person may cut in, or complete one another’s sentences. This happens naturally and without much thought. The pause can help reduce those interruptions that can make it difficult to hear the complete message.
  • Rapport can be slower to establish over telehealth. Initiate small talk and ask your patient what is happening in their world.

Minimize distractions and noise

  • Avoid external noises like tv, music, pen clicking, tapping, or typing.
  • Be sure to turn off/mute cell phones (or set to vibrate).
    • Ask your patient to do so as well.
  • Limit texting, pets, children, any other activities (e.g., surfing the Internet) during the session.
    • I know this isn’t always possible if you are working from home.
  • Avoid eating or drinking while on camera.

Allow flex time between appointments

  • You may want to give yourself a little more time for your virtual appointments. Try not to schedule back-to-back appointment just in case there are technical difficulties that you need to troubleshoot.

Final Thoughts on How To Set-Up For Your Telehealth Nutrition Counseling Appointment

With so many new opportunities to serve others on-line, setting up your virtual appointments will be a breeze! Simply implement the suggestions above that align with your values and adjust your format as you see fit.

Image of the Virtual Appointment Checklist

Would you like a FREE Checklist of the suggestions above? Download our FREE Checklist here.

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More About Rochelle

Rochelle Inwood MS, RDN, ACSM EP-C

Hello there! I’m Rochelle Inwood, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Exercise Physiologist (ACSM EP-C). With over 14 years of experience, I have sharpened my expertise through diverse roles, including weight management program co-coordinator, patient/employee gym supervisor, outpatient dietitian, program manager, dietetic internship preceptor, and more. I am passionate about learning, creating, teaching, and supporting personal growth and development.