While the lasting impacts of Covid-19 on aesthetics companies continue to unfold, virtual consultations and video visits is one area that is here to stay.
Telehealth was beginning to tiptoe its way into the aesthetic industry, before it full-force exploded during the pandemic. A year ago most practices didn’t think virtual consults were a necessary offering for their patients, but now they’re a proven avenue for seeing larger amounts of patients. In fact, some practices that implemented video visits during the pandemic are now requiring a virtual visit first.
But why exactly is remote interaction here to stay? Why are video consults continuing to be booked, even as regulations are relaxing and patients have the options to come back in for in-person consultations?
Let’s go over three main reasons why aesthetics video consultations might be better for meeting the needs of today’s patients.
1. Meet Patients in their Comfort Zones
For many, especially first-time patients, aesthetic procedures are something they want to investigate in private. Most aesthetic procedures have to do with aging, a topic that can be sensitive and even embarrassing for this demographic to grapple with.
Virtual consults remove many of the barriers that have to do with privacy. Instead of agonizing over appearing at a clinic (what if I see someone I know!?), your patients can set up a consultation from the comfort of their own home.
Along with an online booking path, train your reception desks to offer virtual consults. Learn sample scripts and best phone call practices here.
Truth is, many patients will avoid in-person consultations for as long as possible. Virtual options can lead to treatments being booked months (or even years!) earlier than they might have in a physical practice.
2. Save Time for your Patients (and your Providers!)
Virtual consults save time.
Patients save traveling time to your office for information that can often be relayed just as clearly over video. Often in a fraction of the time that an in-person consult takes.
Because aesthetic telehealth can be set up with minimal effort, patients also save research time. Instead of trying to search out their options online before committing to come ALL the way in, prospective patients can ask their questions and learn their options directly from your medical source. This is beneficial because you can help guide your patients early on to appropriate treatments.
Effective video consults can also open up a provider’s schedule. Batching brief video calls together can free up more time for technical treatment appointments within your practice.
If done well, virtual consults can help accelerate your patient pipeline. When your patients do come into your office they will have the information and expectations needed to move forward with treatments.
3. Widen your Reach by Removing Location Barriers
Removing location barriers is huge for expanding your patient base.
In the past, your base may have been limited to patients within a 20-minute driving radius. Now, because of virtual consults, you should be seeing patients traveling further for treatment at your practice.
Patients in further away locations can get most of the lead-up work out of the way and only come in for the necessary hands-on aspects of their treatments. In addition to minimizing their in-person visits, you can also add the value of a complementary first virtual consult. These factors can work together to tip the scale of their decision to work with your practice--even if it means a few long drives.
Offer virtual consults to get remote patients in your practice.
We have talked about the patient side of things, but now let’s address the providers’ experience.
Many professionals are hesitant to put too much emphasis on video consults because they VASTLY PREFER in-patient consultations. You might worry that virtual interactions might feel unnatural or disconnected. Maybe you worry about the video quality impairing your ability to clearly see or understand your patient’s situation. Or maybe you simply just don’t feel as comfortable in this medium.
We get it. There are some aspects of hands-on treatment that just can’t be replicated over a screen. It may feel awkward in the beginning.
However, you might be surprised at what parts of your treatment path work as well (or potentially even better!) for you and your patients digitally. Getting used to virtual consultations might take practice and concentrated effort before it feels natural and effective. But remember, the benefits to your practice include speeding up your patient pipeline to get more patients into your ACTUAL office for treatment. Which is worth any effort.
Setting up video consultations for success begins well before you click the “join call” button.
Both patients and providers need information BEFORE a consult to have a successful experience. Patients need to know what to expect during the call. Providers need patient details and images beforehand to help them find the best treatment path. As you set up the pre-education and instructions for your patients, make sure you cover these 5 items:
1. Medical History
Patient safety is first. Especially for visits like a plastic surgery virtual consultation, the providers need to know what underlying health conditions patients are bringing in with them. Provide the necessary forms on the patient portal so the best fit for your patients aesthetic goals AND health can be achieved.
2. Helpful Photographs
A challenge of virtual consults is getting a clear enough look at your patients to assess their treatment needs. Set yourself up for success by asking for photographs before the consult. For a facial assessment, ask for clear pictures from the front view, and both side views. Provide examples of the kind of pictures you want to be submitted on your portal.
3. Necessary Software
Your practice needs to be upfront with the kind of software your patient needs to have a successful virtual call. Whether it’s Zoom or some other kind of video platform, send your patients the links and download the information they need to have the video system working well.
4. Proper Lighting
In order to get the best view of your patient’s treatment areas, direct your patients on setting up the best lighting possible in their video space. Instruct them to set up a good, bright light behind the camera they are facing. Do not have the light source behind the patient as it will make their face shadowed.
5. Consult Overview and Questions
Patients need a breakdown of what a consultation will look like. Provide technical information on the video platform, length of the call, etc. If possible, introduce the provider they will be speaking to, as well as a general agenda of what will be covered in the call. Encourage your patients to come prepared with questions they have about treatment options.
The more prepared your patients and providers are for virtual consultations, the smoother and more productive they will be. Start your consultation off on the right foot through your pre-visit education.
*Expert tip: Before patients virtually meet with you, help your patients to get to know your face through your med spa marketing. Provide video content introducing yourself and your practice on your website, Facebook ads, etc. Build your digital rapport. These practices aid those who are doctor shopping.
As an added bonus: as you become more comfortable behind the camera creating marketing content, you will feel more natural in your consults!
You work hard to keep the interior design of your office professional and welcoming, the same should go for your remote consults.
Make sure your setting is clean and free from distractions. A neutral background may be most effective. Pay attention to your lighting. Lighting should NOT come from behind you as it will make you appear dark in the stream (many practices invest in halo lighting etc to even out the lighting). Make sure your setting is in a quiet location.
Poor video quality leads to a frustrating experience for everyone. Make sure to test the quality of your audio and video before the consult starts. If all your best-laid plans fall, have a backup plan in place whether it's facetime or a phone call.
A virtual consult does not have to include everything that’s covered in an in-person consult
For many practices, virtual consults’ main goals are to increase comfort levels and connection in preparation for an in-person consult. For example, a Botox and filler video consult might not be able to do a comprehensive facial assessment of bone structure and features like fine lines, changes in pigmentation, etc.
Instead, you can determine a general understanding of your patient’s situation and desires for treatment results, and then offer education on the possible treatments your patient might be interested in.
Your consult should end with encouragement for treatment or follow-up consult if they are a candidate. Make sure to offer an easy path to signing up for the next step, whether it’s a follow-up email, call, or schedule right there in the consult. Take detailed notes of the consultation and make sure that info gets to your main system so follow-up can take place.
There are many digital options to choose from for your practice’s virtual consults.
There are free video options (zoom, google duo, etc). The benefit of these options is that your patients are likely already comfortable with these platforms.
However, you should also consider more specialized video options that include additional features to help your online aesthetic practice. For example, Symplast offers normal video features but also patient payment options, patient scheduling, e-consents, and prescriptions, etc. It also ensures that all information, including sensitive photos, will be stored in the cloud and not on physicians’ devices.
In addition to your video platform, consider other digital offerings to add value to your patients' consult experience. For example, you could offer an online store where your patients could easily find and order any prescriptions needed for their treatment. Patients also respond well to computer programs that virtually alter facial features in their provided photos to show post-treatment results.
As you make decisions about what digital service you want to work with, always keep in mind your patient’s privacy. It is essential that patients’ information is safe and secure under HIPAA regulations. Make sure measures are in place to keep your patients’ info safe such as consent forms, HIPAA compliant texting and consult software, and avoidance of personal devices.
Digital platforms offer a range of options that add value to your patients. Do your research and be mindful of patient privacy as you find the best platform for your practice.
Patients still want a personal experience.
Some patients may worry that the personal aspect of a consultation will be lost over a screen. However, personal connection is very attainable!
First of all, make sure your patient is the top priority. If you are taking the call in your office, make sure your staff knows you are off-limits. Schedule out your calendar, put a sign up on your door, etc. While in the call, put your phone away. Nothing is more off-putting than you texting during a call or being interrupted. Remember that your patients are sharing their insecurities with you and building the first connections of trust with you as their provider. Give your patients the respect that’s due.
Pay attention to your body language. Lean forward when you are speaking and make a point of remaining still as you listen to your patients. Never underestimate the importance of eye contact. Make sure your camera is positioned so you appear to be looking directly at your patient. (no one wants a call where the provider is looking in a different direction the whole time). Regardless of your patient's attitude, make sure to regularly smile and show appreciation that they are there.
Appear professional and well kept in your personal appearance. Your patients gain information from their initial impressions of you, so appearing professional will contribute to their decisions to book with your practice.
Lastly, put your patients at ease by outlining the expectations of the call. Before getting into the main concern, make sure to introduce yourself, thank them for coming, share the expected length of the call, and briefly summarize the next steps after the call. These practices will set your call up to be the most successful for everyone involved.
Our world is forever changed by the digital capabilities explored during the pandemic.
Instead of resenting or pushing against these changes, adapt and learn to appreciate the many benefits that aesthetic Telehealth offers. While virtual consults can not (and should not) replace every function of your practice, the expanded capacity can bring in new patients and speed up the timeline to treatment.
Whether it’s Botox, filler, plastic surgery, or any other procedure, Telehealth can bring more patients into your door. Virtual consultations just might be the deciding factor in your practice’s margins and your patient’s decisions to begin a relationship with your practice.