In aesthetics, the initial consultation is the most crucial tool for evaluating a prospective patient’s needs, establishing expectations, building trust, and identifying the method that will achieve their goals.
With the advent of COVID-19, face-to-face consultations in a doctor’s office have become problematic, to say the least. Between climbing COVID infection rates, shifting restrictions and stay-at-home orders, and the public’s understandable hesitancy to venture into medical facilities while the virus continues to spread, many are putting off looking into a new procedure until things become a little more settled.
The need and desire for aesthetic treatment are still out there, however. Enter the virtual consultation.
Virtual or online consultations and medical visits are not new. They’ve been around for several years now. United Healthcare, one of the largest health insurers in the United States, launched its own program for virtual visits in 2015, and the practice has continued to grow since then. In fact, research from IHS Markit projects that 70 million virtual consultations will be conducted by medical providers in 2020 alone.
The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) reports a significant increase in aesthetic virtual consultations specifically during the lockdown, with some members reporting as much as a 60-70 percent rise. Those are pretty significant numbers.
Of course, there are concerns to take into account when deciding to take your practice into the online realm, privacy being one of the chief considerations. It’s important to note that going virtual with your medical practice is not just a matter of firing up FaceTime on your iPad or Skype on your computer.
A HIPAA survey in 2016 found that only 37 percent of practices report being “very confident” that all office electronic devices are fully compliant with HIPAA regulations. It’s understandable, then, that practitioners might be hesitant to add yet another layer of technology into the mix. There are, however, an increasing number of secure third-party platforms available that can offer your practice both the technical assistance you need to go virtual as well as ensuring secure connections and full HIPAA compliance.
Some of the highest-rated telemedicine platforms include:
But there are a large and growing number of others from which to choose. With a bit of research, you should easily be able to find the one that’s right for you.
COVID-related safety concerns aside, the benefits of virtual consultations are many, chief among them being a convenience factor that makes such consultations an increasingly attractive alternative for a busy prospective clientele.
Patients who may have to travel significant distances, take time away from work, or arrange for the care of small children to attend an in-person appointment can much more easily take part in a virtual consultation without significant disruption to their daily existence.
Add to this the fact that COVID mobility restrictions have made the public, in general, more accustomed to being able to obtain their day-to-day needs online or via delivery. As we look forward to the day when the virus is under control, and we can all return to a more “normal” existence, it seems likely that many of us will expect the continuation of such newly familiar conveniences.
This increased convenience may in fact be a deciding factor as to whether a prospective patient schedules a consultation in the first place. That’s a population of patients that you would never see if not for the convenience of virtual care.
Not a substitute
Of course, it’s important to remember that a virtual consult can’t replace a comprehensive evaluation. Rather, these online visits should be seen as a valuable introduction to you and your practice and an opportunity to answer any initial questions prospective patients might have about a procedure.
In fact, a thorough virtual consultation can allow for an even more in-depth and informative experience when an in-person exam is finally possible, as many of the questions that would otherwise eat up valuable exam time will have already been answered virtually.
Technological advances can be confusing, and when they’re still new there’s the concern of whether or not they’ve been fully tested. Should you adopt new technology now, or should you wait until all the “bugs” are worked out? Fortunately, telemedicine has been around long enough that such concerns can much more easily be dismissed in favor of the convenience and increased patient base that can result from providing virtual access to your aesthetic services.
Those who jump into the telehealth waters now will be the ones who are well-positioned moving forward once this pandemic is relegated to the history books.