When it comes to the business side of an orthodontic practice, recurring revenue is generated from new patient starts. Without new patients, our doors would quickly close. Whether it’s a GP referral, recommendation from a current or former patient, or simply someone who located you via an online doctor finder, like Ormco’s Damon Doctor Locator on damonbraces.com, it becomes your team’s job to impress and secure new patient leads.

The consultation is arguably one of the most important touch points that can help you earn a patient’s (or their parent’s) trust and business. With a growing practice and updated system for handling new patients, here are the top do’s and don’ts I’ve learned that will hopefully help you perfect the consultation process.

Patient Consultation DO’S

  • Educate patients: Consultations are the most effective when the education process starts before the potential patient comes into the office and extends beyond their initial visit. Before the patient arrives, we use My Smile Consult, a new online consultation tool developed by Ormco that helps us to increase case starts by educating patients on the benefits of orthodontics and our Damon System treatment offerings. Before the consultation, we can send prospective patients a “welcome” email that links to our customized version of My Smile Consult where those prospects can learn how they can benefit from a new smile via content that’s tailored to their profile—adult female or male, teen, or a parent seeking treatment for their child(ren). With educational videos, patient testimonial videos (from people like them), before/after photos, and material on why smiles are important—we are able to educate patients and motivate them to seek treatment in a fun, interactive way. After the consultation, we send each patient home with a professional packet of information. This includes their photos taken during the consultation appointment, our diagnosis and treatment plan, pricing, and more.
  • Be considerate of people’s time: Everyone is busy. Everyone. Be prepared and give parents, teens, and adults your undivided attention. In my experience, they will take notice and appreciate it. In this vein, we always offer to bond patients on the same day as the consult—assuming they are cleared for treatment. Less time off work or out of school is typically appreciated, and this allows those patients who know exactly what they want to get started immediately.
  • Utilize web-based consultation tools: In today’s orthodontic practice, technology is our best friend. My Smile Consult has been welcomed with open arms by our treatment coordinators. One of the standout features is that you can completely customize My Smile Consult to showcase your practice branding and contact information, patient photos, and testimonials. With each consult, we always want to show the prospective patient an example case that we treated—not a stock photo, but a real case from our practice that’s similar to their case. Without leveraging technology, it’s too difficult to weed through files and present the ideal case for each consult. Today, we have a variety of our best cases loaded into My Smile Consult so we can present them via an iPad or PC with a quick swipe of the finger or mouse. It’s engaging and helps our TCs build a connection with patients. Better yet, some people recognize their friends who have been our patients—great for a local, community-focused practice.

Patient Consultation DON’TS

  • Focus on selling: People walk into a consultation expecting you to sell them something, so don’t! Surprise them and rather than sell, leave them with a sense of relationship. Focus your efforts on establishing trust and communicate that your number one priority is to help them achieve their smile goals.
  • Turn away young patients: I love to conduct consults for young children. We meet with the parents and let them know what’s coming down the road. This ensures everyone is prepared, and again helps establish a rapport based on trust.
  • Skip new patient records: This goes back to making the most of everyone’s time. If we take records during the consult visit, we don’t have to schedule a separate visit for records. Furthermore, people love to get their picture taken and feel more vested in our practice when we take the time to take their records during the initial consult. Orthodontics can be hard to understand, and we’ve learned that visuals really help patients grasp their diagnosis and treatment plan—and the more they understand, the more likely they are to be on board with the process.

At the end of the day, the key to a great consultation is to establish a connection. The goal is to ensure each potential patient who walks through the door feels like they can identify with you and trust you. Skipping the hard sell and leveraging the latest web-based consultation tools can help you achieve that goal. OP

Jeff Summers, DMD, received his training from the Medical University of South Carolina College and Medical College of Georgia. He has a practice in Greenville, SC, and lectures nationally on a number of topics, with a focus on practice marketing and the Damon System.