How to seamlessly integrate a virtual treatment coordinator into your practice
The widespread adoption of virtual consultations over the past five months has forced many practices to invent their own internal processes to manage a new workflow. Many have chosen to funnel patients into the practice’s traditional new patient flow, while others have hired dedicated team members to manage this new pipeline. While there is no “right” or “wrong” way to implement virtual consultations into your practice, there are some key differences that should be considered:
The differences between a traditional treatment coordinator (TC) and a virtual treatment coordinator (VTC).
Key performance indicators (KPIs) and performance tracking.
Workflow and the “new” new patient journey.
VTCs vs. TCs
Whether you have one person filling both roles or separate team members to fill these functions, the job description is the same: A TC/VTC assists the orthodontist in engaging and nurturing new patient inquiries with an emphasis on patient comfort and satisfaction. He or she has knowledge of orthodontic treatment and familiarity with standard procedures, techniques and methods.
However, these two distinct roles have a few major points of differentiation. For example, each coordinator encounters the patient at a different stage in the buying process (Fig. 1). The traditional new patient process begins with brand awareness, then the patient enters the lead-capture phase by filling out a contact form or calling the office—the first contact with the practice. That’s followed by the consultation, which involves multiple points of contact beforehand. The “start” is when the new patient makes a full commitment.
A treatment coordinator traditionally sees the patient at the “consultation” phase, while the three previous phases are automated or completed by other team members. A TC is accustomed to communicating with patients who are not only further along in the new patient journey but also further along in their own buying process. Once you have the virtual consultation implemented, the VTC gets the patient earlier—at the lead-capture phase, when photos are submitted. VTCs must understand how to communicate with patients earlier in the buying process. Consumers at this stage likely have only just identified they have a need for treatment, but may not understand the full scope of that need. They’re also likely just getting started navigating their options for possible solutions.
Because the VTC is starting communication earlier in the buying process, there are more touch points along the way. Having an organized, streamlined workflow is critical for success. And, because a patient can drop off during any of these stages, VTCs need to make sure they are engaging with patients promptly and attentively. A traditional TC may not be accustomed to frequent follow-up, for fear of seeming too pushy. VTCs, however, need to build and maintain momentum to make it really easy for the patient to complete this journey.
A VTC must communicate through a variety of channels that require different communication skills, including phone, text, email and video call. Video calls require versatile skills, including maintaining eye contact, employing professional mannerisms, eliminating distractions and being engaged. If a prospective patient doesn’t connect on this call, you won’t get the opportunity to communicate further in person.
KPIs and performance tracking
The traditional TC typically focuses on one KPI: conversion rate. We know that can be calculated a number of ways, but ultimately it is just one metric. For VTCs, there are two KPIs to measure performance: reception rate and conversion rate.
For the virtual consultation process, reception rate is the number of patients who submit an inquiry (with or without photos), compared with the number of patients who completed a consultation. A consultation can be done through a video call or in the office, but for these purposes, it should be defined as the appointment where treatment options were presented and fees discussed.
The VTC conversion rate is calculated differently, too. If the TC presents fees during a video call, the conversion rate should be calculated based off the video consultation, not the in-office one. Once video consultations have been implemented, the in-office consultations that take up precious doctor time should near 100%.
Workflow and the “new” new patient journey
The “new” new patient journey will not be the same for every practice. Some may not require submitted photos; others may not do video calls and go directly to in-office appointments. Here’s one example of a new patient journey. Be sure to map out yours and review it with the entire team to ensure everyone is on board to make it a seamless process.
Step 1: Lead capture
New patient call.
Photo submission via SmileSnap, SmileMate or landing page.
Step 2: Acceptable photos received
If necessary, follow up to obtain suitable photos.
Step 3: Treatment options sent
Call or email the treatment options, with quote and estimated length of treatment.
Step 4: Video call
Schedule a video call via Zoom, SmileSnap, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Doxy.me, etc.
Step 5: In-office appointment
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.
If you’re advertising a virtual consultation—as opposed to a free smile assessment or smile analysis—you need to give a quote and an estimated length of treatment. If you’re unable to provide these two details, make sure you explain why—photo quality/angles, etc.
Consider having a few options for video call platforms, so you can meet patients’ preferences or technology IQ. (Not everybody is familiar with WhatsApp, for example.)
VTC roles and responsibilities
The VTC and the TC do not need to be separate people, but they are two distinct roles. Be sure that whoever is involved in this process understands their responsibilities clearly and doesn’t revert back to traditional TC standards.
The new responsibilities of a VTC include tracking lead status and following up accordingly. Remember, there’s no simple “yes/no” tracking for patient starts; there are additional stages in the new patient journey where prospects can fall through the cracks.
VTCs must also take more control over the reception rate by monitoring patients appropriately—ideally in a CRM system—and sending the applicable email campaign and/or email marketing blasts. This allows you to do things at a bulk level. Don’t let leads slip through the cracks because you’re still doing things manually!
Ultimately, you want to make sure your team is owning the whole virtual shopping journey. This means ensuring they are comfortable communicating via different channels and with people at different stages in the buying journey.