Perception of Eye Contact in Telehealth Videoconferencing

T. Tam, M.E. Salenieks, J.A. Cafazzo, E. Seto, B. Purdy, M. McLean, and P.G. Rossos (Canada)


Eye Contact, Videoconferencing, Consultations, Sociological Aspects


The perception of eye contact is important for effective communication, especially between clinicians and patients. During patient consultations over telehealth videoconferencing, clinicians often sit as close as a metre away from the videoconferencing units, creating a 15o eye gaze angle (angle between the eye and the camera, and the eye and the centre of the display). The results of this study show that participants perceived better eye contact in 87.1% of cases with a 7o eye gaze angle compared to the 15o angle. Also 92.5% of participants responded that the difference in the perceived eye contact was important to them as a patient. The improvement in eye contact can be realized by increasing the horizontal distance that participants sit from the unit, thereby decreasing the eye gaze angle. An upper limit gaze angle of 7o is recommended. The Law of Cosines can be used to calculate the minimum horizontal distance (D) necessary. If the camera is directly above the screen, and the participant’s eye height is level with the centre of the screen, the following calculation can be used: Let H be the difference in height between the camera and the centre of the display. D = H / 0.123

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