Is your practice offering virtual smile consults yet? Demand for telehealth has skyrocketed in recent years and it goes way beyond filling a gap left by social distancing. Going digital opens up new opportunities for dentists and patients alike. Here’s a quick look at how they work and what makes virtual smile consults indispensable to the modern practice.
What is a Virtual Smile Consult?
Virtual smile consults are an opportunity for patients to connect with you online before coming in for treatment. Visits usually focus on one issue, such as cosmetic concerns or a toothache, but can sometimes be used as a meet-and-greet, to go over a large case, or for other reasons.
Virtual Smile Consult Definition
Technically, virtual smile consults fall under teledentistry, which the American Dental Association (ADA) defines as “the means for a patient to receive services.” Although there are many ways for dentists to provide remote care, most practices will be working with either synchronous or asynchronous teledentistry.
- Synchronous: The dentist meets with the patient in real-time, such as by phone or video.
- Asynchronous: Communication does not happen in real-time; information is stored and forwarded. This might be the case if you’re emailing information or using specialized software.
Why Patients Prefer Virtual Smile Consults
Telehealth popularity has been growing for years, but COVID expedited it for sure. Prior to the pandemic, only 11 percent of Americans were using telehealth. Now, more than half do per McKinsey.
- Less exposure. Although most dental practices are back to normal now, some patients, especially those in high-risk groups, feel better minimizing their exposure to others.
- More convenient. Even a short appointment can represent half a day away from work and childcare concerns for patients. It’s a huge relief to be able to visit with a dentist without having to take time away.
- Emotionally easier. More than one-third of the population reports having dental anxiety and 12 percent report having extreme dental fear, research shows. The virtual buffer allows them to meet with a provider in a comfortable and familiar environment that’s free of anxiety triggers.
How Offering Virtual Smile Consults Benefits Your Dental Practice
Virtual smile consults aren’t just another bell or whistle for your practice. Offering them can have a huge impact on your production and profitability.
1. Virtual Smile Consults Attract New Patients
Imagine you’re a patient coping with just one of the concerns we covered earlier—social distancing needs, work obligations, family, or dental anxiety. You’re searching online for a new dentist (which 90 percent of patients do), when you come across a dentist that appears competent, has a good reputation, lets you bypass a phone call with online booking, and saves you half a day by being willing to see you online. It’s a no-brainer. You book it.
Mention your virtual smile consults everywhere you market your practice and, if you’re using online scheduling, include a link to your booking portal. Your schedule will fill up on its own.
2. You Save Your Chairs for Treatment
It’s easy to focus on how teledentistry can bring in new patients, which is great if you’re trying to grow your practice. But, we all know that the real production comes in after cases are accepted—especially when someone needs extensive work. Virtual smile consults keep your operatories open for patients that require in-person care, so your practice runs more efficiently and profitably overall.
3. Patients Are More at Ease and Speak Freely
Patients often hold back information or don’t engage during consultations. Lack of time, a sense of feeling rushed, or fear of being labeled “difficult” are common reasons they keep mum according to research presented by CNN, but no matter the cause, it impacts treatment and case acceptance. Virtual consultations often feel more relaxed, so you’re more likely to get the information you need and the patient is more likely to become invested in treatment.
4. Patient Satisfaction Gets a Boost
Patients prioritize convenience when choosing and staying with a dentist. Nearly three-quarters say it’s important that a dentist see them right away, but just 22 percent of practices get new patients in within 48 hours according to Futuredontics surveys. Other considerations, such as short in-office waits and convenient hours rate highly as well. Because virtual appointments reduce in-office traffic, help you get patients in sooner, and make your practice more accessible, you improve satisfaction in a big way.
5. They’re “Easy” Production
Virtual smile consultations fit nicely into your low-production slots, like when you’re waiting for a patient to become numb or at times your assistant is able to see to the patient in the chair. Although insurance coverage varies for patients, telehealth visits are billable and any treatment diagnosed will go a long way toward meeting your production goals too.
Virtual Smile Consult Codes
Because most virtual smile consults are conducted via video chat, you’ll need to bill the code for synchronous teledentistry (D9995) along with the proper evaluation code for the visit. See the ADA guide for additional teledentistry coding details.
6. It’s Easier to Implement Than You Might Think
Even when practices know the benefits of offering virtual smile consults and want to implement it, technology and workflow concerns can make it seem like an overwhelming transition. Thankfully, there are lots of tools that make it simple.
- Practice-Web: Our core practice management software makes it easy to manage your schedule and patient charts. Add an operatory to your schedule just for telehealth visits, schedule alongside in-office visits, or create schedule blockouts to hold times for new patients.
- pwTeledentist: Our integrated teledentistry Smart Tool is easy to use and launches via browser from either Practice-Web or your dentist portal. No special virtual smile consult software is required! A link to the recording of each session is automatically archived in the patient’s chart.
- Online Scheduling: With the Online Scheduling Smart Tool, patients can schedule their own virtual smile consults when it’s convenient for them. All their paperwork is handled virtually and appointments automatically populate in Practice-Web, so everything is in one place and your team stays organized.
Learn More About Teledentistry and Virtual Smile Consult Software
Whether you’re totally new to Practice-Web or have been using the software for decades, we’re happy to guide you through the options, show you the tools, and answer all your questions. Drop us a line.