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Former TV news personality helps telehealth doctors on screen

Posted at 9:05 PM, Oct 27, 2020

As a result of the pandemic, telehealth is a more common way to see your doctor. It's not easy to adjust to a virtual bedside manner, which is why a former news reporter is launching "Webside Manner" for doctors to learn what is not taught in medical school.

Twenty years ago, Mark Bernheimer was on camera, reporting daily events for stations in Los Angeles and CNN. When he got out of news, he decided he could use his skills to teach others.

“How to be comfortable doing news interviews, how to be comfortable giving speeches on stages and things like that,” Bernheimer said.

When the pandemic hit and everyone's audience became virtual, he had to pivot his business "MediaWorks Resource Group."

“I started helping my clients figure out how they could do it more efficiently, more professionally, how to do news interviews through Zoom, how to hold webinars and Q and A session through Zoom,” Bernheimer said.

And then one day, he said, his medical colleagues asked for help with telehealth.

“Doctors don’t get formal training or any training in set design or video production,” Bernheimer said. “This is not what they get out of medical school, they may be excellent doctors and scientists but when it comes time to deliver health care in this forum, they need some help."

Things like making eye contact through the computer camera, technical quality, lighting, and where the device is physically placed were all important things that Dr. Bob Murry, a family physician in New Jersey, says could use some work, even though we're almost seven months in to the pandemic.

“As this is becoming more routine. Folks do need to up their game a little bit and learn more about how to best use the technology,” Dr. Murry, who is also the chief medical informatics officer for NextGen Healthcare, said.

“I had never done a video visit before coronavirus. We didn’t realize how powerful that medium can be. You can really connect with your patients and be really intimate with them and have almost everything that you have in a real person visit,” Dr. Murry added.

Now, Dr. Murry says, the way doctors come across needs to be thought out, too, in addition to the actual medical care and advice.

“So much of medicine is really talking to your patients from the patient's standpoint. They want to tell their story and get an answer or make sure it's not something to be concerned with and from the physician's standpoint, it's that story which is so important in medicine and that story can happen over video,” Dr. Murry said.

“These are people, who don’t forget, who are probably sick to begin with or worried to begin with,” Bernheimer said. “Now they’re anxious; now they’re nervous because they don’t want to be on camera any more than the doctor does. So the doctor or health care provider has to take special precautions into account before conducting those kinds of visits.”

Bernheimer is working with NexGen to officially launch "Webside Manner" in November, and says things like body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions are all things that need to be considered during telehealth. He admits they can be challenging visits for all involved.

“I spent 16 years looking into a camera as a TV news reporter. It was much easier for me to learn how to look directly into the lens of a TV camera than it has been for me to get used to looking into that tiny spec on the top of the laptop lid, so if it's hard for me, I can only imagine what other health care providers must be experiencing,” said Bernheimer.

But, it's a necessary medium, as we're all becoming dependent and quite comfortable with doing everything from our home devices.