Planning For the Best: Virtual Orthodontic Strategies To Survive COVID-19 Shutdown

By Leon Klempner, DDS and Amy Epstein, MBA

The shock of this crisis is subsiding and we have all learned that social distancing is going to be a way of life for a while. Businesses have begun to adapt by going totally online or converting to a model that doesn’t include putting people together into a small space. Restaurants, liquor stores, and even boutiques are doing curbside pickup and delivery. Companies have adapted video technology like Zoom and teachers are holding class and grading assignments on Google. Everyone except the most essential workers are working remotely now.

This is what we are calling the “new normal” and it’s not the time for orthodontists to project the message that they are closed for the duration. In fact, just the opposite is true. Your patients need to hear from you now, more than ever. They need to be reassured that we can make this work for them and that we are still here for them.

Our industry relies on in-patient treatment to be effective – there is no getting around that. But orthodontists can help mitigate the impact it has on patients as we practice safe social distancing and even temporarily close our offices. Have you thought ahead to a time when we begin opening up the economy again? How many patients can you see at one time? Are you prepared to see 3,000-5,000 patient adjustment visits from day one when you reopen?

You can avoid disaster by rolling your adjustment appointments right now. We have been recommending our clients confirm, not cancel scheduled appointments. Part of a good strategy to help you continue to serve your current patients and even attract new ones includes telehealth technologies.

There are plenty of technologies out there that can enable us to do virtual appointments via photos/video and engage new patients and answer many of their questions. Here’s how it works:

For existing patients, instead of coming into the office, use a free or inexpensive photo/video conference application like SmileMate and Photo monitoring Lite by Dental Monitoring or even have your web developer include a photo uploader onto your site. Patients can use their smartphone or laptop to upload their progress photos. Review their photos before their scheduled appointments and then keep the appointment via video instead.  Most people have been using these video chat platforms now for a few weeks and are very comfortable with them. Doxy.me and Zoom are popular choices and since HIPAA laws have been temporarily suspended you can even use FaceTime to consult with patients remotely.

Don’t think you have to hit pause all of your initial consultations either. If a new patient contacts you wondering when they might be able to come in for an appointment, offer a free video consult. SmileMate by Dental Monitoring, Rhinogram, SmileSnap and Digital Smylz are all perfectly suited for scheduling a consultation virtually. Although you can not do a physical exam or take radiographs, you can give general information and answer questions about insurance eligibility, financial arrangements and estimate treatment time.  As soon as it is safe to do so, you will be ready to begin treatment with a new patient immediately.

Many of our clients have already implemented these platforms and strategies into their workflow and are seeing success. They create blog posts, welcome videos and advertise that they are “open” for business, at least virtually.

We also have a “Virtual Appointment Resource Guide For Orthodontists” that we are giving to orthodontists as a PDF for free. You can find it here.

Keeping appointments via video conference is an opportunity to reassure your patients that everything is okay and you are readily available for any emergencies or help them track progress so they don’t lose ground while sheltering in.  Most importantly, you connect with the patient, reestablish your relationship, and demonstrate your value.

Leon Klempner, DDS and Amy Epstein, MBA are co-founders of People & Practice, a digital marketing consultancy exclusively for orthodontists. They also host The Survival Guide for Orthodontists (www.pplpractice.com/podcast), a podcast dedicated to making you the authority in orthodontics to prospective new patients in your community. People & Practice builds trust in your practice online to help you get new patients in a digital era by convincing them (before even meeting you) that you’re the practice to choose. For more information or a free marketing analysis, go to  https://pplpractice.com/virtual-orthodontic-practice, call 888-866-DOCS or email leon@pplpractice.com.

Image: Image by Tumisu from Pixabay