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How to Rock Virtual Consultations
Thursday, May 14, 2020 9:00 AM
Office closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have forced practices to reinvent themselves in important ways. Luckily, patients are looking for some sense of normalcy and seizing this time to research items on their personal wish list such as facial rejuvenation or cosmetic surgery. To engage patients and tap into this opportunity, you’ll have to offer and know the best way to conduct a virtual consultation.
Create a Remote Consultation Plan
Virtual consultations are not new. Top medical aesthetics practices have been successfully conducting virtual consultations for a long time to accommodate out-of-town prospects and an overall large number of patients. Below are time-tested best practices that can now serve as a guide for all practices in our current remote business environment, and many of them can be carried forward when practices such as yours begin seeing patients in the office again.
Tailor your marketing
When marketing virtual consultations, you should focus your message on your unique service propositions and the benefits of remote consultations. For instance, you can communicate how a virtual consultation is like a house call, allowing patients to chat and explore a treatment plan designed to meet all their needs from the comfort of their own home. Once you know your message, promote it and tailor it to suit each patient touchpoint. Using the house call example, you can show “a patient” having a consultation at home on Instagram, write about the ease of virtual consultations in an email, or post virtual consultation patient satisfaction survey results on Facebook. In your message be sure to include a “call to action” such as contacting the practice to take advantage of a limited-time complimentary consultation offer.
Enhance your communication channels and response
One of the benefits of our virtual environment is the ease it provides patients to contact your practice — on their terms. For that reason, it is important to make contacting you simple by removing all potential barriers and providing timely replies. This means regularly monitoring your various contact platforms (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, online chat app, phone, and email). Commit a highly trained individual (or two!) to engage with patients and answer their questions promptly when inquiries appear on your platforms. Also, consider staggering practice personnel shifts over the day to accommodate patients who may now prefer to communicate outside the traditional 9-5 timeframe. Virtual staffing makes this possible. Lastly, create the perception of “instant booking” with widgets and links.
Create telehealth policies and processes
Before conducting virtual consultations, create a telehealth policy or process that supports the latest best practices available. In your guidelines it should state:
- Consultations are not to occur on a public forum, but rather through a “non-public facing” communication platform, e.g., Apple FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype. (The Office for Civil Rights’ waiver does not cover public-facing tools such as Facebook Live, Twitch, and TikTok.)
Review telehealth guidelines published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to help craft your policies and procedures. Here you will find useful — but temporary — telehealth rule relaxations for providing care to patients.
Conduct a pre-consultation engagement
In the medical aesthetic environment, patients having initial conversations with a patient care coordinator or cosmetic concierge do occur. It provides patients the one-on-one time and personal attention they crave with an individual who has strong product and service knowledge without taking up the provider’s valuable time. In our new normal, this formerly “nice-to-have” element is now essential. In a Zoom, FaceTime, or electronic medical record (EMR) platform session, the cosmetic coordinator should learn what patients hope to achieve by asking the following questions:
- What procedure interests you?
- Can you tell me a little about your research on that procedure?
- What are your expectations for this treatment?
- What is your ideal time frame for treatment or surgery?
- Is anyone else helping you make this decision? (If so, encourage the patient to have that person present at the provider consultation.)
- Have you established a budget? Would you be interested in financing? (This opens the pricing conversation.)
The coordinator should also use this time to prepare patients for the provider consultation by discussing with them how to set up their space to ensure a quality consultation, walking through what they can expect in the consultation, and answering any additional questions they might have. During this discussion, coordinators should highlight the provider’s and their own credentials and experience.
A virtual pre-consultation is sometimes considered a “dry run” for a provider consultation because coordinators can troubleshoot patient questions and resolve any concerns while also giving patients the time and space to think about important decisions. That puts the patient further along in the decision-making process when the provider consultation occurs.
Hold the virtual consultation
A truly excellent virtual consultation requires trust and close coordination between the provider and the patient coordinator. With excellent information gathered and shared by the patient care coordinator, providers are set up for success — as long as they practice active listening — when they remotely connect with patients. Below is a checklist to help providers create a positive outcome for both the patient and practice.
- Introduce yourself and inform the patient that you have reviewed notes from the virtual pre-consultation, but that you would still like to hear directly from him or her about personal goals.
- Based on the patient's answer, you should be in a position to provide education and offer the options that best suit the patient's needs.
- Outline a recommended treatment plan and use this time to answer the patient's questions and concerns.
- Thank the patient for choosing to meet with you for a virtual consultation. Remind the patient that he or she will soon be contacted by the patient care coordinator again to cover pricing and payment options for the desired service and discuss next steps (e.g., scheduling a date for the surgery or service).
Follow through with post-consultation contact
Prompt and relevant follow-up by the patient care coordinator immediately after a patient’s virtual consultation is essential. It’s only then — when reviewing the treatment plan and quote — that the patient care coordinator will have an opportunity to uncover any barriers the patient may have to moving forward. If a follow-up virtual meeting is not immediately possible, establish a timeline of no more than one day for the completion of this important consultation process element.
Find Success Within Our New Norm
COVID-19 has forced all businesses to consider how to reach potential clients while practicing social distancing. Successful practices will be the ones who adapt and flex to the new remote business environment. Be among the successful practices by embracing and conducting excellent virtual consultations. This will not only help your practice to persevere today but be prepared for the new digital business norms after this crisis.