Telemedicine gives you the opportunity to work how you want and where you want. Take advantage of that freedom and spend a little time creating a space that makes you crazy productive, motivated, and inspired to practice medicine your own way.
Whether you are transitioning to full-time telemedicine from a traditional in-office practice or simply adding part-time telehealth services to supplement your salary, you'll want to consider your home workspace. Practicing telemedicine from home is relatively simple and requires very little equipment and setup. But it can be exciting to thoughtfully design a space that enables you to practice medicine from the comfort of home. And it's also a good time to evaluate your old equipment and upgrade if you've been eyeing a new computer or office accessories.
Choosing Your Own Telehealth Equipment
The first step in setting up your telehealth home office is to check your equipment. You probably already own everything you need to practice telemedicine. But it's also a good time to take stock of your devices and use the opportunity to upgrade if you've been looking for a good excuse. (Been dreaming of joining the "cult of Mac?" Now's your chance!)
Note that you don't need all the items in this list, but we've outlined a few setups and accessories you might consider for your ideal workspace.
Equipment Needed for Telemedicine
A reliable internet connection. Along with a computer, ensuring you have a reliable internet connection that is fast enough to handle streaming video is about all you need to practice telemedicine. HD video calling requires speeds of at least 5 Mbps for uploading and downloading. Most internet services in the US provide speeds much faster than that. But if you are traveling, you'll want to check your connection. You can test your internet speed here.
Laptop with camera and microphone. A basic laptop with camera and microphone functionality can do all the heavy lifting you need for virtual telehealth visits. Most modern laptops come with built-in cameras and microphones, but if you have a device without one, you can supplement with an external camera and microphone that plugs into your USB port.
Desktop computer with camera and microphone. Desktops give you a bigger screen to work with and can be more comfortable for heavy home office use. Like laptops, most desktop monitors come equipped with a camera and microphone, but you can always supplement with external equipment if needed.
iPad/tablet or smartphone with stand. If you're only performing light telemedicine tasks or need to consult on-the-go, you could probably get by with just a smartphone or tablet and stand. Modern cell phones include microphones and cameras capable of performing video calls, but they won't allow you to easily take notes simultaneously. We recommend using this setup as a backup or supplemental to your main computer.
Headset/headphones. Sometimes built-in microphones and computer speakers just don't cut it. A headset or headphones with an attached mic can be a comfortable and hands-free option for video consults. They also help drown out any background noise that could distract you or your patients.
External speakers. If you don't want to wear a headset or headphones, you can supplement with external speakers that plug into your device. This can help if your device volume doesn't get loud enough.
External microphone. If patients struggle to hear you or your microphone doesn't function as it should, you can pick up a cheap external mic that plugs into your USB.
Ergonomic external keyboard and mouse. If you spend a long time at the computer, it's worth investing in an external ergonomic keyboard and mouse. This also helps if you'll be doing work through a tablet. Modern versions can connect via Bluetooth so you can be wire-free.
Designing Your Ideal Telehealth Space
Once you've taken stock of your equipment, you'll want to ensure your office, or the room you plan to take consults in, is set up appropriately.
Taking the time to design a comfortable and private workspace can improve your telemedicine practice efficiency, enhance the virtual patient experience, and create an ergonomic, zen-like environment you likely never imagined a career in medicine could provide.
Quiet, private room with a door. The last thing you want is a small child or barking dog bursting in the room during a patient consult. Patients expect to be seen in a private setting just as they would during an office visit. Choose a space that is free of excessive noise that you can close off when needed. Even if you aren't taking video consults and are working on asynchronous jobs, you'll want the opportunity to close out the world and get after it.
Clean white or light-colored background wall. For video consults, you should set up your computer's camera so that it is facing a clean wall or bookshelf without a bright window behind you. While natural room lighting is nice, bright window light behind the camera can cause shadows and make it difficult for the camera to clearly register your face.
Comfortable desk or table. While working from a couch sounds nice, if you plan to take more than a few calls or spend consecutive hours working in telemedicine, you'll probably want a hard surface to rest your arms and set your laptop on. Setting up a table and chair at the correct height is important to prevent back pain. (Pro-tip: If you're gung-ho about designing a custom ergonomic space, use this calculator to determine your ideal table, chair, and armrest height.)
Adjustable office chair. Same as your desk/table setup, your chair is key to preventing incorrect posture. Been dreaming of that luxe, leather, "like a boss" office chair? This could be a reason to finally bring her on home.
Muted, natural, or natural-colored lighting. No fluorescent bulbs, please. Not only are they heinous to work under and provide a less-than-flattering hue, if you've been practicing in a hospital you're sure to be tired of working under these harsh lights. Do yourself a favor and install soft-white bulbs in your ceiling lamps, open the blinds a bit for some natural light, and bask in your warmer environment.
BONUS: Greenery and decor. Bring the outside in with some live plants and don't take for granted the power of a few decorative accents. If a jute wastebasket, shag rug, and matching leather desk accessories make you happy, go ahead, add them to your office. We spend a lot of time at work, so it's nice to make a space that truly feels yours.
Working from a home is a new luxury of today's connected world. And while it's convenient to avoid a commute, working in your own environment with your own gear can also make you really happy. Take advantage of that freedom and spend a little time creating a space tailored just for you.