In January I interviewed Dr. John Karotkin, a Houston orthodontist who had recently launched an online orthodontic consultation program. When we first spoke the custom built section of his practice website was just a few weeks old, so I decided to check back in to see how things were going after four months.
With almost no promotion, the program is netting the practice, Advance Orthodontics, 4 or 5 online inquiries each month and four new patients who came to the practice via a free online consultation have started treatment. Dr. Karotkin said he does not know if these patients would have found his practice without the online consultation, but they definitely were ready for treatment.
“I think they are more serious when they come in about actually wanting to get something done,” he said.
Most of the cases submitted through his website have been local, and almost all of them had an obvious cosmetic need for orthodontic treatment. Dr. Karotkin said he expected that because patients know if they have gaps, crowding or crooked teeth, but they might not always be aware if their issues are functional instead of cosmetic.
While these online patients are often in need of treatment, the system is also turning up patients who have not seen a general dentist in years. While they are in need of orthodontics, Dr. Karotkin said some of the patients he’s found through the online consultations need to be referred to a general practitioner first, and some are not ready to invest the time and money in that before they invest it in his care.
“If they’ve been neglecting their mouth for a long time, and I’m the first dental care provider they’ve seen in years, there’s a good likelihood that they need a lot of dental care before they can start orthodontic treatment,” he said.
While this service has not grown into the engine driving Advance Orthodontics, Dr. Karotkin said he’s been happy with the modest success. It requires minimal effort on his part and getting even one new patient a month this way is proving to be worthwhile.