The reasons you’re considering
virtual consultations in your
orthodontic practice dictate
how they should be used
by Casey Bull
Virtual consultations are one of the
hottest topics in orthodontics,
and have been for some time.
There can be a bit of debate
around if this came about because of
COVID-19 or if the pandemic simply
expedited the natural progression of the
industry. Regardless, patient expectations
have shifted and virtual consultations
are here to stay. But what is a virtual
There are three main ways to implement
- As a lead-capture tool.
- As a lead-qualifier tool.
- To conduct virtual appointments
or video calls.
The lead-capture tool refers to a widget
or landing page on your website—an
alternative way for online traffic to engage
with the practice. When determining which
virtual consultation widget you’re interested
in adding to your website, user experience
(UX) should be the top priority. The key to
virtual consultation success in the form of
a lead-capture tool is to make it attractive
and simple to submit contact details and
The next level of virtual consultations is
to use it in a way to qualify leads. Whether
the practice wants to qualify leads based on
dental readiness or financial sensitivity, you
can reduce the amount of in-person chair time
without decreasing starts. Many practices that have implemented virtual consultations
as a way to qualify leads have increased
in-office conversion rates to nearly 100%.
Finally, virtual consultations can
also be implemented to focus on actual
video appointments with new-patient
prospects. This can be done to complement
the other components mentioned above or
as a standalone option to offer during the
The main thing to consider is that
this is not a one-size-fits-all item. The way
that a practice should implement virtual
consultations depends on its reasons for
adopting them in the first place.
Why are you implementing
The main reasons include:
Responding to consumer demand. Individuals
in your area have shifted expectations
and are actively looking for remote options,
even if they don’t use them.
Getting an edge on the competition.
You can beat out the competition by offering
virtual consultation as a convenience. And
if your competitors are already doing it,
make sure your practice doesn’t fall behind.
Qualifying leads. Virtual consultations
allow you to “see” more patients with less
chair time. Ensure you are scheduling only
the in-office patients who are likely to start.
Increasing efficiency. Having patients
get everything done online before they come
in allows for in-office appointments to take
only half the time. You can also reduce the
number of in-person consultations so you’re
working smarter, not harder.
Increasing your conversion rate. With
prequalification and trust building happening
before the in-person consultation, you’re
getting patients to a “yes mindset” before
they come in. In addition, with the reduced
number of in-person consultations, you can
start the same number of patients with less
in-office chair time.
Increasing website conversion rate. The
virtual consultation widget is an engagement
tool that’s proven to help increase your
website conversion rate.
Increasing leads? Although it’s
a common misconception that virtual
consultations generate leads, they do not.
They don’t increase traffic to your website;
paid advertising or other lead generation
marketing tactics do. VC widgets simply
capture leads that have already landed on
The way a practice should implement
virtual consultations varies based on that
individual practice’s “why.” Whether
looking at the new patient journey or
the buying process, the various forms of
virtual consultations impact the journey
at different stages.
for different folks
In a new-patient journey (Fig. 1), the first step is getting the new
patient to know you exist. That is known
as brand awareness. The next step is lead
capture, which refers to the new patient
communicating to the practice that they
are either interested in a consultation or
have other questions.
Sometimes the first contact with the
practice happens at this same time. For
example, the patient may call the practice
directly. But often, a new patient will fill
out an online form requesting a call back
or book directly using an online scheduling
tool or photo submission through a VC
widget (all forms of lead capture).
When this happens, the first contact
with the practice is either an email or
text confirmation back to the patient or a
personal phone call back. The new patient
then moves on into a consultation—virtual,
in-person or a combo of both. All of which
ultimately leads them to a start (Fig. 2).
As displayed in Fig. 3, each type of
virtual consultation affects a different
stage of the new-patient journey, and
the practice’s “why” should guide which
elements are appropriate for them.
- If the practice’s “why” is mainly to
respond to consumer demand, then
the practice should implement the
elements of the virtual consultation
that patients are requesting. This may
vary from region to region. The main
thing to consider is that the practice
is offering the service for the patients
at their request, so a rigid process isn’t
appropriate. Ensure that patients can
opt in or opt out to any element, as
long as they’re moving forward in the
- If the practice’s “why” is to gain
an edge on their competition or
increase website conversion rate,
then all they truly need is a virtual
consultation widget. This is the only
component that is public-facing,
leaving the practice to move forward
with their own process internally.
- If the practice’s “why” is to qualify
leads or increase conversion
rate, how to implement virtual
consultations varies on the degree
that the orthodontic team would
like to qualify. If chair time is very
limited and the practice needs to
make the most of every single exam,
then all three components should be implemented. But if the practice
simply wants to weed out price-sensitive
shoppers, implementing the
VC widget and qualifying would be
- If the practice wants to increase
efficiency, then the first question is
to determine where exactly it needs
to be efficient. Virtual consultations
increase efficiency of chair time,
as well as follow-ups after in-office
consultations. However, there is a
large amount of admin work that
comes with implementing various
elements of the virtual consultation.
It’s important to consider the
practice’s priorities when setting up
the virtual consultation system.
Virtual consultations are here to stay,
but they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Know why you are implementing them,
and implement only the components that
get you closer to your goals.
Casey Bull, the global director of content and community at The Invisible Orthodontist (TIO), drives TIO’s efforts to provide member practices with marketing and business management expertise. Bull began her career in the orthodontic industry working for Dr. Alexander Waldman in Beverly Hills in 2014. While working for the practice, she developed a range of practice management processes encompassing tracking and reporting, management systems and templates, treatment plans, marketing programs and more.