Telehealth offers many benefits for patients with cancer, but it may present oncology nurses with unique challenges to maintaining effective and empathetic communication.  

The techniques for communication during a video telehealth visit involve many of the same strategies as motivational interviewing

  • Establishing a personal connection 
  • Engaging in active listening 
  • Using open-ended questions to empower patient participation 

Telehealth best practices suggest that using visual aids during a video telehealth visit and sending patient education resources after can enhance comprehension and continuity of care. 

Case Study 

In this fictional scenario, a team of oncology nurses initiates a pilot project to learn how they can use two-way video telehealth visits to support virtual patient assessment in a new outreach clinic located 100 miles away from their primary supportive care clinic. The nurses staffing the rural clinic have varying levels of nursing and telehealth experience but are lacking a standardized telehealth visit assessment process.  

The nurses begin with training in evidence-based telehealth communication strategies that they can use for telephone or video telehealth visits, specifically to: 

  • Address any concerns patients or families have about using telehealth for supportive care and reinforce how it protects their privacy and security. 
  • Ensure that patients understand how to use the platform for virtual appointments and other communication. 
  • Provide patients with a checklist of information they should have ready for their virtual appointment. 
  • Begin each appointment by establishing a personal connection: Take a moment to inquire about their well-being, listen for any challenges they might be facing, and convey empathy and support. 
  • Use visual aids such as diagrams, charts, and images to explain complex medical information and help patients better understand their condition. 
  • Practice active listening to understand their concerns, questions, and emotional state. Encourage patients to share their thoughts and feelings openly and provide reassurance and validation. 
  • Actively involve patients in their care by asking questions and inviting them to share their preferences and goals. 
  • Engage interpreter services to ensure effective communication for accurate assessment and follow-up planning. 
  • Schedule a follow-up telehealth call or visit to monitor patients’ progress and ensure their well-being. 
  • Involve the interprofessional team as needed, including oncologists, nurses, social workers, and mental health professionals. 
  • Regularly seek patient feedback to continuously improve the telehealth process and address any issues. 

Six weeks after they received training and implemented the strategies, the nurses felt better prepared to deliver patient-centered, compassionate care using telehealth communication skills for telephone or video visits.