Telepsychiatry for the Hearing Impaired – Top 10 Tips

Happy young asian business woman waving hands to greeting partner during making video conference with her team.

If you see enough patients, you are bound to run into patients who may be hard of hearing or deaf.  People with disabilities deserve great care too.  Effective communication is essential to ensure a high quality of care.  So, what should a provider do to make sure effective communication is established?

  1. Make sure that there is as little background noise as possible on both sides of the camera. This can be challenging in certain facilities that are inherently noisy, such as jails or inpatient units.  Its helpful to have a dedicated office for telepsychiatry that can be insulated against background noise.
  2. Use a high-quality microphone speaker on both sides of the telehealth session. These are easy to use and inexpensive devices.  You just plug-n-play with a USB port
  3. If the quality is still not good, you can connect the audio through the telephone while keeping video with the telemedicine platform
  4. Check to make sure if the patient is understanding you- have them repeat back what you said from time to time.
  5. If you have a telepresenter (a staff member on the patient side), they can tell you if its poor audio quality or if its good quality but the patient just can’t hear you because of their impairment. You can have the telepresenter repeat your words to the patient during your appointment.
  6. If the patient knows American Sign Language, you can easily include an ASL interpreter into the videoconferencing session as part of a group chat.
  7. Provide the patient with headphones (noise cancelling preferred). This allows the patient to increase the volume and minimize the diffraction of noise.
  8. Type out what you want the patient to know and screen share it with them. Make sure to use a big text so they can easily see the words. You can put your words in a Word document or the like, then click screen share. Problem solved!
  9. There are several closed-captioning apps on the market. Also, some videoconferencing platforms include closed captioning as an option.  Just be sure that these technologies are all HIPAA compliant.
  10. If all else fails, arrange for the patient to be seen in person. Usually this is not necessary as there are so many ways to ensure good quality of audio.  These days, audio via technology should not differ much from the audio in person.
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