Lisa Moore looks at how she used virtual consultations to keep up patient communications during lockdown.
My background in dentistry. I started out as a dental nurse after A levels, trained as a dental hygienist in 2003, and then branched out in 2010 into facial aesthetics.
Fast forward to today and I run my own successful aesthetics clinic, Lisa Moore Therapy. I also have a training academy for advance skin care treatments, Facial Excellence Training Academy. I am also a trainer for injectable treatments for Botulinum Toxin Club.
I have always had a passion for facial rejuvenation and skincare, but until recently up-selling retail was not a strong point.
Last year I dabbled into creating my own brand skincare to retail to my patients and other clinics, which has been really successful. So much so over lockdown I have extended my range to include more professional in-clinic and home care products.
Lockdown enforced changes
I’ve been asked to write this article about how lockdown has affected the way I serve my patients.
I would say the biggest change is obviously access to patients as we still can’t see them face to face.
So does this mean we cease looking after this loyal patient base?
Definitely not! It’s actually even more important to stay in contact and help serve you patients at this time. Many may be suffering from low self esteem. Some may also be with a partner who has never seen them without their cosmetic interventions.
Offering virtual consultations I’ve found was a great way to keep that vital contact with my patients so they did not feel abandoned. I also found that for many, their immediate needs had also changed.
The simplest way I found to help my patients was via a simple phone call. When we closed, I had patients who needed to be cancelled and others who were due.
I called these patients and put them on a VIP priority rebooking list so they would be offered an appointment as soon as we had a date to safely reopen. The response to this was that they felt valued as a patient. For some, this contact was enough to know they would not be forgotten or left out.
The personal touch
I do have several patients who are in a shielding or vulnerable category too. For these few, I also carried on with catch-up calls so they felt they still had a little something to look forward to.
I’m very aware that we can be a lifeline for offloading emotions during our consultations. Particularly at this time of great uncertainty, it was lovely to be able to give a few minutes of my time engaging with this group. Some had literally lost all sense of normality overnight and most of their interaction with others.
For the rest of my patient base, I wrote regular updates via email through my online booking system. This (alongside social media) is where I offered my existing or any new patients the opportunity to book an online virtual consultation.
My booking system Ovatu had the function that they could book online. It would automatically generate them a zoom link. I also regularly updated my google listing to reflect what we were currently offering.
What did I cover during the zoom consultation?
Firstly, I always checked how the patient and family were. Were they home schooling? Working from home? Not working? Or were they key workers working more hours than ever?
I found this to be essential as I would always make small talk during a face-to-face appointment so why should remote be any different?
Secondly, I’d find out what was bothering them most. Or what they feel would bring them some comfort during this time.
For some it was a skin detox now they had time to focus on themselves. In particular, for home care protocols that could leave some down time usually. For some who are now working from home, rather than commuting, it was the ideal time to step up their home care to include products that would prep and peel the skin. As they were not attending meetings or seeing colleagues face to face, for some it meant it was actually a great time to start than heavy peel protocol.
For others, they really just wanted a pamper so we had a selection of light home peels, masks and serums to make them feel that little bit of luxury at home. For some, I even created packages of various products including relaxing herbal tea bags. I also included scented candles to help them further recreate a little bit of that missing clinic feeling.
After we all seemed to settle into lockdown I also found that as people had more time I was getting more new patient enquires. These were for all sorts of treatments.
Rather than just saying “we are closed currently”, it was lovely that I was still able to offer them a consultation. Again, by zoom link they could book in for a suitable time. We would be able to discuss their treatment needs and goals.
The booking system also automatically sends out a general consultation questionnaire for the patient to electronically complete and return before the appointment. This is so I could discuss any health issues or contra indications for certain treatments.
Obviously the virtual consultation will never totally replace our face-to-face consultation when we can reopen. But it did give the opportunity for the new patient to get a feel for me as a practitioner. It also provided a familiarity with some of the different treatments on offer.
It also gave me an opportunity to assess which treatments they may need. By getting a feel for the patients history it will also help with future scheduling if they are in a group that can book right in as soon as we open. Or perhaps, due to their medical or social history, it may be best to wait a little longer.
Zoom or similar virtual consultations are great so you can discuss treatments and goals with your patients. This is especially true if it would be beneficial for them to use products or protocols to prepare the skin before having their treatment. Most of all, I didn’t want my patients to feel like they were on their own.
I always followed up with an emailed treatment plan (often with a couple of varying options) so the patient could review the information again. This happened before deciding which treatment they would like to book in for in the future, or what home care they would need.
Patients that have purchased a bespoke skincare product from the clinic also need to know how to apply and get the best from their new protocol. We have been lucky that the products could be sent out direct to the patient via drop ship from the pharmacy. Or via our bespoke treatment plan delivery service www.getharley.com. But by adding a short explanation or full protocol in the follow up treatment plan, this ensured the patient remembered which order to use thing, or how often.
Usually for new products we would hold open evenings where we would showcase and demonstrate how to apply the particular product. As we were unable to do this, I did get a few questions on the practicalities of how to open and dispense certain vials. I found the easiest way to over come this was to record a few quick explanatory videos on the products. This was also shared as content on my social media. In turn, this created more sales too (I also got the added benefit of having the treatment myself).
So now I have successfully integrated virtual consultations into the clinic going forward, even when we are able to see patients face to face. I will still utilise virtual consultations for a number of different cases.
For example, for initial contact with new patients who are unsure what treatment they would like or what we offer. Especially for those who maybe struggle with our regular appointment slots.
For reviews, I used to have lots of patients who would come back for a post treatment review who were happy with the treatment results. But also wanted reassurance I was also happy with the treatment outcome.
Another great use for the virtual consultations will be to check in on home-care and product use. I would not usually get patients back in just to see how they are getting on. We previously had photos sent so we could see skin improvements. But now can utilise the video conference to see the patients progress for ourselves.
What platforms are out there?
There are several different platforms that can be used for virtual consultations. All will have pros and cons so it’s about finding the system that works best for you and your clinic.
Here are just a few examples of systems you may want to look into. Some are free, but some are chargeable:
Things to check
- Is there a monthly fee or restrictions if you’re using the free version?
- Is the system encrypted for patient confidentially?
- Are any photos that you request also on an encrypted format such as imessage?
- Does the system meet your needs? If you’re looking to host a virtual open evening, for instance. Skype can host up to 50 people for free. Whereas zoom has different limits depending on your subscription
- You may like to host a zoom party with a select few VIP patients. Perhaps with a guest speaker or other specialists within your team. Will your chosen system let you do that?
- Have a timer handy so you don’t get carried away if you have multiple bookings that day.
- Send your paperwork out prior to the session and confirm the booking in advance
- Send out instructions if an app or similar needs to be installed before the appointment (it may be the first time your patient has used your chosen system). Or if you require photos to be sent in advance
- Perform the consultation as you would if the patient was in front of you
- Take notes
- Ask questions and give the patient time to answer fully
- Follow up
- Decide if you are going to charge for your time and if so how much and what payment method will you accept (again, my booking Ovatu system has a stripe integration for online payments)
- Decide on the length of your virtual appointments and make the patient aware of how much time you have booked with them
- Advertise the fact that you are taking booking for virtual consultations to your new and existing patients. For example, mail shots, Facebook and Instagram posts and on your website
- Update your blogs and Google listing to include this service too
- Make booking as easy as you can. The patient should not be put off before they even start.
In summary, there is no replacement for face-to-face consultations. But with an integration of online booking, online forms and virtual consultations, I feel we have been able to provide our patients a great service at a time that they would otherwise be abandoned.