Transforming a Business With Virtual Consultations
Realize greater efficiency, improve conversion rates, and extend your reach
Sivan Finkel, DMD
In the past, esthetic consultations were one of the most significant sources of inefficiency in my practice. I would block off valuable time on my schedule for free in-office consultations without knowing if the patients were candidates for veneers, if they were the right fit for me, or if they could realistically afford treatment. The system worked well when patients accepted my treatment plans, but there was always the potential for these visits to result in no future treatment, which was a waste of the practice's valuable time that could have been scheduled for something profitable.
Fortunately, I came upon a solution to this problem during the COVID-19 shutdown. I was only permitted to treat patients who required emergency dentistry, so anything cosmetic had to be put on hold. In order to salvage some of my productivity, I reached out to every patient who had a consultation scheduled during the next few months, and I offered them virtual consultations via video conferencing.
The first few patients were very receptive to the virtual consultations, and soon after, I implemented a HIPAA-compliant teledentistry application with high-definition video. Before long, I was reaching brand-new patients, including many who lived outside of my geographic area. Whether they were patients who feared that there would be a "catch" to complimentary consultations in the office, patients from further away who did not want to pay transportation costs without being confident that the visit would be fruitful, or those with other concerns, the virtual consultations brought a flurry of new patients to my practice.
Beyond the time and other savings associated with not conducting these sessions in the office, offering virtual consultations has provided a number of other significant benefits to my practice and my patients. For example, I have found that some patients have an easier time expressing their esthetic desires from the comfort of their own homes as opposed to being in the office environment, where many feel pressure and anxiety. I am also able to meet them without a mask covering my face, which helps me to better develop their trust. In addition, the teledentistry platform enables me to share my screen to show lecture slides that demonstrate the steps involved in a potential treatment, before-and-after photographs of similar cases, and more. The virtual consultations help to optimize the results of these cases as well.
If a virtual prescreening session results in the patient declining treatment, less resources are invested when compared with an in-office visit. Furthermore, I have found that my conversion rate has increased to more than 90% since adopting this format. Of course, this program is only for esthetic consultations, and I make a very clear distinction in that regard. When patients call about a toothache or a reconstructive need, I still require them to visit the office. I cannot make decisions in those types of cases without examining the state of the patient's dentition in person, acquiring radiographs, etc. But for esthetic cases, the virtual consultation format has been perfect. I should note, however, that I never completely firm up a patient's treatment plan until we meet in person. Video conferencing has its limits for esthetic cases too. You cannot perfectly judge the shade of the teeth. You cannot determine whether someone will need whitening therapy before he or she receives veneers.
The success of these virtual esthetic consultations has been a surprise to me. What began as a way to salvage some productivity during the COVID-19 shutdown morphed into a permanent source of improved efficiency for my business. And although teledentistry significantly streamlined my process, the biggest benefit has actually been how it extended my reach because I now consult with at least one international patient per week.
About the Author
Sivan Finkel, DMD, is an adjunct clinical instructor for New York University's Advanced Program for International Dentists in Esthetic Dentistry and the owner of The Dental Parlour in New York, New York.