Outside the Box: Do Virtual Consultations Work in Rural Areas & Small Towns?
There is a sentiment that we commonly hear when we speak with offices located in smaller towns or rural areas: “Virtual consultations do not work here. We’re a small town practice, and they aren’t ready for it here.” After discussing and probing the issue on a deeper level, what we often find is that the patients are indeed ready for it, but the offices are not. The problem seems to be that staff members misunderstand what it means to do a virtual consultation. Some practices have expressed concern that “virtual” equates with “not-personal” or “not-family friendly.”
We also have some patients that drive 3 hours or more to visit our office. Providing them information about their individual treatment plan and pricing prior to making that trek makes their appointment more efficient for both of us and saves them multiple trips to the office.
From my experience as a treatment coordinator for six years and having specialized in virtual consultations for two years, I have not found this to be the case. In fact, the very opposite is true – virtual consultations can lead to a personal, convenient, and highly effective consultation experience that will “wow” your patients and give them the personal touch that you pride yourselves on, no matter your location.
Whether your office is in a big city or a small town, Here are a few keys to creating a great customer experience that maintains the warmth and personal touch of your office
Proactively ask patients to complete a virtual consultation.
Don’t wait for patients to find the widget on your website! If a patient calls your office for an exam, direct them to your SmileSnap landing page and let them know you are offering the option of virtual consultations for their safety and convenience. Give them confidence in the process by telling them how much your patients are loving that they get all of the information they need about starting treatment even before they come in the door. Yes, even fees!
The intonation of your voice and delivery will speak volumes. If you come across as unsure, the patient will know you are not confident in the system. Let patients know that the virtual consultation is just the first step, and once they complete it, they will come in to meet the doctor and team, and get started with their treatment.
Once you see how educated and committed your patients become through the virtual consultation portion of their orthodontic journey, and how your same day starts increase, you will be hooked on the power of the virtual consultation!
Focus on the main benefits to the patient – convenience and confidence.
Let your patients know that you are doing virtual consultations because it is better for them. Whether in the big city or in a rural area, our patients lead busy lives, and the current pandemic has not made things easier. An effective virtual consultation will let them know if they are ready for treatment, what the basic plan is, and what the fee will be. What parent, regardless of geographic location, would not want to have that info so that they can confidently know that you are the office for them, before they even come in?
Establish a workflow to easily manage your consultations
It is important to think through the way you want to manage your virtual consultations in the same way you would design any important process in your office. This includes assigning team members with key responsibilities to ensure that the virtual patient experience will be just as exceptional as if the patient physically came into the office.
The most successful offices I have worked with are not reliant on the doctor to manage the entire virtual consultation process. It is a team effort that mimics the in-office consultation dynamics with the TC and the doctor working as a team. No two offices do virtual consultations alike, just like no two offices do in-office consultations alike, so please reach out to the Customer Success team at SmileSnap – we are excited to help you get started with your individual journey!
Remember – they will still be dazzled by your office!
You have spent years carefully crafting your new patient consultation experience with tours, cookies, and video games….don’t worry – those aren’t going anywhere!! Every patient who goes through a virtual experience will still come to the office for a start visit (exam, records, etc.) and they will fall in love with your office. In reality, the in-office visit will be even better than it was before because you and your team can really focus on the patient experience and have fun, since each of these patients has already accepted a treatment plan and fee! With all of this information the patient has before they come into your office, the TC and doctor can go into their day expecting a conversion rate of 90%. Now that is something to smile about!
One practice that is having tremendous success with virtual consultations is Warford Orthodontics in Bismarck, ND. In a state that is largely dominated by agriculture and covered in farms and ranches, one doesn’t automatically think high tech. Dr. Warford’s TC, Kirsten Heid, was kind enough to share her experience with virtual consultations:
“We rarely have a new patient exam where they’ve previously completed a Smilesnap VC that doesn’t convert. These leads seem to be positioned more to buy that day, almost like they feel their “thinking about it” & due diligence is done before we see them face to face. They always seem more comfortable with a general idea of price and treatment plan and come prepared with questions they need answered in order to make their decision with confidence.
We also have some patients that drive 3 hours or more to visit our office. Providing them information about their individual treatment plan and pricing prior to making that trek makes their appointment more efficient for both of us and saves them multiple trips to the office. “
With effective planning and management, virtual consultations have been proven successful no matter where your practice is located. We know virtual consultations are not going anywhere and will only become more advanced and utilized as time goes on.
The takeaway from all of this is that “they” – your patients – are not only ready for it, they are worth it. Why would we not offer the same type of technology to patients that are located in small towns as in the big city when they have the same smartphones, iPads, and computers in Bismarck as they do in Manhattan? In addition, YOU are worth it. Doctor and staff time is valuable, and it’s amazing to see how practices across the globe have adopted virtual consultations successfully, leading to a more contemporary, efficient, and productive new patient process.