Guy Deeming speaks about the benefits of introducing Dental Monitoring into his practice and how his patients have taken to the virtual practice.
Please introduce yourself
My name is Guy Deeming.
I’m a specialist orthodontist based in the north-east of England. I’m clinically active in two practices and then we have another three practices as part of our little group providing specialist orthodontics in the NHS and privately.
How long have you been seeing patients in your practice?
I’ve been involved for up to 12 years now, since 2009. And I’ve started Dental Monitoring in 2017, allowing me to see my patients virtually as well!
What types of treatments do you offer?
We provide a wide range of treatments within the practice, which initially started off as an NHS practice.
But we knew very quickly we would need to diversify to spread some of our commercial risks and also to provide an expanded range of services to the local community.
All specialist orthodontics were within my side of the business. There is a parallel sister business called Queensway Dental. They supervise a wide range of dental services, which is slightly discreet but nevertheless related.
In terms of the appliances, we’re a big Invisalign practice. The largest and one of the leading specialist providers in the north of England. And we enjoy that very much.
We decided to make the decision about seven years ago that we were going to pivot our organisation and orientate ourselves around Invisalign and Align. And we haven’t really looked back since. The good thing is that clear aligners pair perfectly with Dental Monitoring for remote management of treatments.
How many patients do you start a year?
Well, it’s complicated at the moment because of COVID. We’re starting somewhere in the order of 1,800 to 2,000 NHS patients. And around a thousand private patients a year as well.
Of those private patients roughly half are Invisalign. So between 40% to 50% and that is going up year by year, increment by increment.
What was your main concern before starting a virtual practice with Dental Monitoring?
There was a big long list of concerns. But I would actually phrase them more as objections.
So I don’t think they’re really concerns, they’re all those things that we put ahead of ourselves or may think about before making big decisions.
When we actually break them down, they’re not really concerns at all, they’re convenient excuses. Quite often we can come up with a thousand reasons why we shouldn’t do something and we’ll forget that there’s a thousand and one reasons why we should.
That said the main objections I had were around the IT, the integrity of the IT, the data management and security around the IT. And also how patients would find it. Whether they would insist on the old way of seeing their orthodontist.
The reality is the IT solutions are diverse and plentiful. Many of those have very high quality with very robust data security management systems in place. This allows you to carry out your due diligence to ensure compliance with the necessary regulations.
Patients think it’s just fantastic. There is very little pushback from patients.
Frankly my view on this has become tougher as the months roll on. Patients who don’t want to get on board with the idea of a virtual practice, they’re probably not right for us.
So it’s almost better that we find out at the front end rather than six months into the treatment that they are mismatched to our service delivery model.
Can you describe how you use Smilemate, Vision and Dental Monitoring?
We don’t use Vision yet as we’ve been busy with lockdown. But it’s coming really soon as this smile simulator will embed into Smilemate, online. There for future patients to knock on our virtual practice door.
All of our new private patients are directed towards Smilemate. Here they upload their concerns and photographs.
We then feed that into our processes to provide them with their AI-powered automated and personalised report. All prior to scheduling a case start face to face visit within the practice.
We’ve moved all of our consultation investment upstream. So we’re not having to do those within the building.
What that means is that the time that we’re spending in the building with the patients is not spent working on converting a patient or providing that value to the patient. They’re already on board.
It’s a tremendously rewarding thing to be involved with. Not least of all, we only see patients who already want to start treatment, which is a really nice positive experience.
‘It’s saved us a huge amount of time’
All of our aligner patients are on Dental Monitoring. That is embedded into what we do.
We operate an appointment on demand system. Dental Monitoring calls it OWN: Only When Needed. So we do not see patients in a line of treatments for routine reviews. But only see them in-practice when we need to see them and to put our hands in their mouths.
For that reason we’ve significantly reduced the number of routine reviews on an annual basis.
This has saved us a huge amount of time.
The combination of those two things has saved us tens and tens of hours a month and hundreds and hundreds of hours a year from our existing diary. It allows us to grow, which allows us to work in a more calm and more measured manner with those physical appointments, which still have to happen.
Has the virtual practice bridged the gap you wanted to close?
Frankly the gap is covered. It allowed us to continue to see patients during and immediately after the COVID crisis. Remote monitoring is a wonderful everyday solution for modern orthodontics.
That means, anything happens, we are continuing to grow, continuing to see new patients, to engage new patients, to build our network, and following up on our existing patients.
I think that’s one of the other things that’s been really powerful. It actually requires less from people in terms of their lifestyle inconvenience or intrusion. Suddenly you’re able to speak to people and touch more people, even if virtually. To have more contact with people and spread some of those good messages about the benefits of orthodontics.
That idea of network marketing, because we’re having more contact, we’re having more positive experiences and because we are being more generous with our time and our value. That’s having a really positive effect on the community.
We’re much more visible and we’re being talked about and engaged with much more.
One of the other interesting things is the change in the dynamic the patients are reporting. In other words, instead of being in a dental environment where everybody’s nervous, suddenly you’re on a virtual call and it’s a bit more like a conversation.
It’s much more focused and it’s actually much more level and balanced than the traditional dental dynamic.
What do you think the benefits are for your patients?
Well I’ve already described one in the sense that the playing field is levelled.
Secondly it allows them to access a much more convenient time. It doesn’t require an afternoon off work and 30 minutes in the car either way. There’s much less investment from their side.
Having your teeth straightened is a good idea for lots of people and they recognise that once they actually get the chance to talk to us.
The other benefits are that patients have much more quality time with you. Those appointments require less physical infrastructure from our point of view. We’re able to then offer more flexible appointment scheduling at different times of the day and evenings.
Suddenly we’re in a much more dynamic and moldable form than we were before. We’re not locked into a rigid 8:30 to 5:30, Monday to Friday pattern.
What will the world of oral healthcare look like tomorrow?
Not what it looks like today.
I think increasingly in our healthcare we should question are we doing this because it’s the right thing to do or are we doing it because we’ve always done it this way?
Engage people how they want to be engaged. This is exactly what we’re doing. People want this now. People like engagement through video calls, through virtual services.
There is a growing volume of people for whom that is simply normal in a post-COVID world.
Obviously if that’s all underpinned by really smart really sophisticated AI technology, that is actually going to make decision making intelligent and automated.
If you had to describe Dental Monitoring virtual practice in three words, which ones would you choose?
From a personal perspective it would be ‘not going back’.
I’m not going back to the old way of doing things. And I’m doing more.
The second thing I would say is it’s end to end. For me it’s the first time we’ve started to see an end-to-end software solution. It takes a patient from lead acquisition right the way through into treatment. And then into retention on one software platform.
That’s something we’re super excited about for the future.
For more information visit dental-monitoring.com.