Casey Bull explains why virtual consultations can help patients become more involved in their treatment and provide a seamless and efficient experience.
Casey Bull discusses the lasting impact of virtual consultations in orthodontics
The rapid adoption of virtual consultations in orthodontic practices during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic was undeniably transformative. Serving as a safe and convenient method for patients to interact with practices remotely, this innovative approach became essential for maintaining patient communication and care continuity. While virtual consultations witnessed a surge in popularity during the pandemic, some practices have scaled back or removed them as the world returns to normalcy. However, the benefits of virtual consultations remain significant, making them a valuable tool for modern orthodontic practices.
Addressing new patient scheduling backlog and patient satisfaction
A primary reason for implementing virtual consultations is to address the challenges posed by extended new patient appointment wait times. Practices experiencing overbooked schedules with wait times exceeding 2 weeks often encounter elevated no-show and cancellation rates, leading to lost opportunities for conversion and production. Virtual consultations present a practical solution, allowing patients to be “seen” sooner and alleviating patient frustration caused by long waiting periods.
Engaging with potential patients during the lead-capture phase, where they submit inquiries and photos, enables practices to establish early communication and nurture prospects from the outset. This proactive approach empowers patients to gain insights into their orthodontic needs and explore treatment options. As patients develop a clearer understanding of their treatment journey, they become more invested and are more likely to commit to further steps, which leads us to another key benefit of virtual consultations — increased conversion rates.
Increased conversion rates
Practices that have embraced virtual consultations have observed a substantial boost in their in-office consultation conversion rates. By providing preliminary treatment plans and fee estimates during virtual consultations, practices put themselves in a position to be seen as empowering patients to make informed decisions without “gatekeeping” fees and doctor time. This transparency and flexibility instill confidence in prospective patients, leading to a higher likelihood of converting them into committed patients when they do visit the office.
Virtual consultations offer patients the convenience of obtaining essential treatment information while ensuring they feel comfortable and in control of their decision-making process. When patients are well-informed and actively engaged, they are more likely to move forward with their orthodontic journey, ultimately leading to increased conversion rates and improved patient commitment. Without virtual consultations, treatment coordinators should be experiencing a 65%-75% in-office consultation conversion rate. Once virtual consultations are implemented, the in-office conversion rate increases to in excess of 90%. It essentially weeds out the shoppers and ensures in-office doctor time is reserved for high quality patients.
Recommended workflow for virtual consultations
To ensure the seamless integration of virtual consultations into the practice, a well-defined workflow is essential. Following this recommended workflow can maximize efficiency and patient satisfaction:
Step 1: Determine who will receive this offer
- Is it something that is offered exclusively to selected patient segments, like adult new patients calls that are digital referrals without a dentist on file?
- Is it offered to patients only when the in-office consultation backlog is over 2 weeks long? Is it advertised on the website and on ads but not something promoted in the practice?
Step 2: Identify how you capture the information and photos
- Virtual Consultation widget like SmileSnap or SmileMate
- Landing Page with photo upload feature
Step 3: Photo evaluation and follow-up
If needed, follow up to obtain suitable photos.
Step 4: Treatment options communication
Call or email the treatment options, including a quote and estimated treatment duration.
Step 5: Virtual consultation
Schedule a video call via Zoom, SmileSnap, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Doxy.me, or another platform.
Step 6: In-office appointment
- Conduct a dental examination.
- Obtain scans or records.
- Begin the treatment.
Important: You want to give the impression that your practice is easy to work with. If you have to follow up too many times for quality photos during the first lead-capture phase, consider skipping this step altogether. The goal is to increase conversion rates, not deter someone from becoming a patient because your process is too rigid. Not having photos will, of course, limit the detail you will be able to cover during a virtual consultation call, but getting the patient on the call can allow the practice to start to build that patient-practice relationship. Instead of focusing on fees, this would be a good time to focus on understanding the patient’s dominating buying motive, appliance preferences, and reviewing what being a patient at your specific office looks like.
Responsibilities of a Virtual Treatment Coordinator (VTC)
The role of the Virtual Treatment Coordinator (VTC) is crucial in ensuring the success of virtual consultations. The VTC’s responsibilities include:
- Tracking lead status and following up promptly
- Ensuring timely and attentive engagement with patients throughout the consultation process
- Utilizing CRM systems and email marketing to maintain patient engagement efficiently
- Managing reception rates by monitoring patients appropriately
- Coordinating applicable email campaigns and marketing blasts
- Ensuring effective communication via various channels, such as phone, text, email, and video calls
- Providing a seamless and comfortable virtual shopping journey for patients at different stages of the buying process
By assigning a dedicated VTC to handle virtual consultations, practices can ensure a patient-centric approach that enhances the overall experience and boosts conversion rates. The VTC’s involvement is crucial in building patient trust, maintaining engagement, and streamlining the virtual consultation process for optimal success.
As practices continue to navigate the post-pandemic landscape, it is crucial to recognize that virtual consultations were never just a temporary fix. Rather, they represent the future of orthodontics — an approach that puts patients at the forefront of their own treatment journey. By prioritizing this patient-centric model, practices can build strong patient relationships, enhance treatment acceptance rates, and solidify their position in their community as a leader in orthodontic care.
For more about virtual consultations, check out this webinar by Dr. Bills, “Efficient and Effective Virtual Visits in the Orthodontic Office” at https://orthopracticeus.com/webinar/efficient-and-effective-virtual-visits-in-the-orthodontic-office/