Virtual interaction is widespread nowadays, but how can it be a benefit and cost-saving for physical therapy clinic owners? In this episode of the Physical Therapy Owners Club, Nathan Shields talks with Mark and Wendy Lucas, PT of Virtual Sally, who have modernized and streamlined the front desk experience, providing PT owners with a viable virtual front desk option. They explore the virtual experience, the pros and cons, and how a virtual front desk can benefit PT owners. Learn to leverage technology and streamline administrative processes, so you can enhance efficiency, improve patient experience, and ultimately focus more on providing quality care to your patients. Tune in to this episode now!
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If You’re Not Considering Virtual Front Desk, You’re Missing Out, With Mark And Wendy Lucas, PT Of Virtual Sally
In this episode, my guests are Mark and Wendy Lucas, Owners and Founders of Virtual Sally, a virtual front desk option that they’ve brought to the market. I’m excited to talk to them about this because everything seems to be going virtual. First of all, thanks for joining me. I appreciate it.
Thank you, Nathan. We appreciate it.
Let’s get into it. Tell us a little bit about the virtual capabilities of having that at your front desk. Can that truly be as effective as having someone in person covering that? It’s a super important position in the company and can drive business in a severely negative direction but also can be hugely positive. Do virtual capabilities have the same ability?
The first thing we’ll say is thank goodness for COVID because it changed the dynamics. I won’t go into detail, but we started this years ago as far as the concept within our practice. During COVID, everybody got used to talking in this format. We had already developed the product, and it was something that we were using live-streaming video anyways.
The comfort level was there whereas it hadn’t been when we first started the product. The key to what we found is that you need that personal interaction, but that kiosk for whatever the components you’re using have to be able to do something that a live person can do. In other words, any activity a live person can do in front of the patient needs to do the same thing. That’s what it does.
There’s one thing about my front desk people, especially as we interviewed them. We wanted them to be super personable and engaging like, “How about your kids? Tell me about your weekend.” That can go too far sometimes if it’s distracting the front desk person from making calls, scheduling and collecting copays. Can that virtual presence replicate that or still connect with people that way?
Absolutely. We have found that particularly prominent in the practice as we have used it and other customers as well. We found that people will bring them Christmas presents. Even though they’re virtual, they’ll bring them in this season. We’re in summer in Virginia, where we’re located, so it’s squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers from the garden. They do get that personal touch. The easiest way that I explain that to people looking at this product is it’s the same as when you call them and talk to them about coming in for their appointment.
You’re talking to them about how great your therapists are and how we’re looking forward to being able to help you with your shoulder pain. When they come in and put that face with it, that’s exactly what they’re doing. They’re putting the face with that call so they’re able to say, “Nathan, I’m the one that talked to you on the phone. I’m so glad to have you here.” Walk them through that process of onboarding with you.
Someone that is virtual and working remotely will still be taking the phone calls and setting up appointments for those people who are calling in. Handle faxes that might come through the system and that kind of stuff. Tell me what that experience is like then. What’s the customer experience when they show up to a virtual? Do you call it a kiosk or station?
Either one you want to call it. We get away from the kiosk a little bit, even though that’s the name of the form. It’s like Xerox means copy. With Kiosk, people tend to think it’s like a cold kiosk where you have to initiate something. That’s the beauty of this product. We realized early on that it had to not require any action on the part of the patient. It has continuous live-streaming videos. It’s constantly watching that rating room as if they were sitting right there. It’s able to see people coming in or going out. It will see the traffic going by with cars or people walking by depending on how their waiting rooms are set up.
If a person walks in and takes a seat because they’re like, “I don’t know what’s going on. There doesn’t seem to be anybody here,” they will see them, and they’ll be able to pop right up, greet them, and get moving with them. It doesn’t require the kiosk systems that you see out there where they have to push a button or ask somebody to come on. It’ll pop right up to let them engage.
Does that alert the virtual assistant that someone has come in essentially somehow?
There are both visual and audio cues that the bank of receptionists will get to let them know. The beauty of the product is not only the bank of receptionists are able to see all the offices that they’re covering at the same time, but they’re also able to see what the other receptionists are doing. If you don’t have all your receptionists in one place, let’s say you’re one of our customers in a very expensive labor market, you can hire that labor in a less expensive labor market, but they can still see what partners are doing around the country.
For instance, one of our customers in New York was paying $70,000 for his front desk receptionist in addition to an outrageous rent payment. We have a receptionist in North Carolina at $15 an hour. He’s loving life. They love her and her accent. It’s been a great marriage for them. He’ll tell you it saved his practice. There was no other way that makes it. As we all know, reimbursement is not great, but it’s bad in New York. When you’re looking at those costs on top of declining reimbursement, it’s tough to make it work.
Tell me about their effectiveness. I can see that there might be some pros. The cons that are obvious to me are simply there might not be as much warmth or engagement if it’s the right personality. If you got a bad front desk person, then you lost all that anyways. There might not be as much warmth or engagement or as much of the other conversations like kids, the sicknesses that are going on and the weather. There might not be a little bit of that. However, I could see some of the pros. What I’m asking you are some of the pros and cons.
Some of the pros I see are maybe some of those conversations could be a distraction, and maybe this having a virtual person can save in cost. Then they also could, because of their remoteness, be able to focus on some of the other things that they need to do, whether that’s dealing with insurance companies. Talk to me. What do you believe are some of the pros and cons of a virtual remote front desk person?
You nailed it as far as talking with the patients. They can still do a lot of that. One of the nice things that happened is we started using this in our practice years ago before the COVID strike. It was very foreign to people. People have been doing this for a couple of years. They didn’t talk to their grandkids or their loved ones if they didn’t do this because COVID made it so they couldn’t visit them. They couldn’t see them in nursing facilities and all of those things. People have become much more feeling like this is the norm and not as cold as it was before. In that sense, it did help us.
From their customer experience perspective, it is very much like a Zoom call like you and I are having on this video call.
Once that call is engaged, it’s a 29-inch video screen so it becomes live time. It’s even bigger than what you look at on Zoom calls. It envelops you to come into that person.
In Kroger, people were standing at the register. The girl at the bagging station is checking her phone and yet the line at the checkout kiosk is backed up.
They’re not using the cash registers anymore?
They’re not using it at all. It’s funny that people are becoming more comfortable with this type of engagement rather than actual person-to-person.People are becoming more comfortable with virtual engagement rather than actual person-to-person. Click To Tweet
They’re choosing it versus choosing to have a real person, one last person that talks to them. As you said about the conversations, they certainly can have as long a conversation as they want to, but the nice thing about this, as you noticed, is that your receptionist may be up front, and Mr. Jones is going on and on. The line is backing up, and he’s not realizing that we’re behind versus her having to get her phone underneath and text somebody to come, “Please come help me. Come save me. Mr. Jones is taking forever.” You can say, “Mr. Jones, I’d love to hear more about your grandkids, but I’ve got to go catch up with another patient, so I’ll talk to you next time,” and you can cut that off. They don’t know that that’s what you’re doing, but you work your workflow.
Simply not knowing the camera’s angle, is it difficult to catch those people who are maybe leaving their appointment, and you’re like, “You’ve got to schedule for your next appointment?”
We do set that up. We help the practice owner figure out how to set up the standard kiosk component and how to get the camera to capture that the best they can. If you say something, same as if you’re sitting there, “Mr. Jones, you need to make your appointment,” they can keep walking by maybe a little harder when you’re sitting there as a person than when you’re not.
You’re going to see that. That’s going to be on your task list that you’re going to call Mr. Jones and say, “I didn’t catch you when you left. We need to go ahead and get your appointment scheduled.” You can also be on the front end of that looking when they check in, they have no other appointments. Getting those scheduled ahead of time instead of waiting.
Tell me if you’ve noticed this or not. It might force that remote person to be a little bit more structured, knowing they don’t have that in-person ability to catch someone that sneaks out, or they’ve got to be a little bit more on top of maybe being proactive. Do you see any of that by chance?
When we started this, we realized that we would be able to cut our costs as far as labor. Some of the things you’re talking about that we found that were hidden savings or things that we accomplished that we didn’t think we would is that our collection rate went up tremendously for whatever reason. When you’re not sitting right there personally with the person, it is much easier for our virtual receptionist to ask for the money. It was a whole lot fewer excuses from the patient about why they couldn’t pay that day for those services.
Instead of the receptionist saying, “You have a $100 copay. How are you going to afford that?” It can pop right up on the screen. “Your copay is displayed. How would you like to take care of that?” It avoids some of those uncomfortable conversations. Some other thing that we found, because we take in that data electronically, is it’s moved immediately into their EMR, so the error rates significantly dropped.
We went to first-time clean claims at about 98% to 99% because we didn’t have to have somebody type in that data in. We just moved the image right into the EMR. We also found that because we got that information in there so fast that we were able to bill more regularly, we started billing twice a day. Cashflow helped.
Another good pro though is things that I was like, “I wasn’t expecting that but it was nice.” Our scheduled density picked up because we got rid of a lot of what I call the cabals in the office where Mr. Smith is going to cancel on Friday, but I want to leave early, so I’m not going to pull him off the schedule yet. I’m going to wait until he gets there. I tell the receptionist, “Don’t pull Mr. Smith off the schedule because I want to leave early. I don’t want anybody filling that spot.”
When the receptionist is sitting there in your family, in your groove, it’s very difficult for them to cross that line and say, “No, I need to put it in there.” They’re going to create this whole cabal that happens. Whereas when they’re not there physically, it’s much easier for them to pull that off and get that schedule filled right away.
That makes me think of something. If you have a great culture, then it might not matter all that much if that front desk person is in-person or virtual. When there’s a negative culture, especially if there’s a poisonous personality, that can be a negative effect on the front desk and limit their capabilities and efficiencies. They get wrapped up in some of the rumors and drama. Having someone virtual makes them separate from all, which makes it more difficult.
I love what you said. The physical therapist can’t go up and say, “Let’s manipulate my schedule this way.” Putting although not a physical barrier but a barrier in place, they have to take some extra steps if they want to talk to the virtual person. They could walk up to the camera and say, “Move my schedule around.”
That takes a lot of gumption. When they’re right there, they can say, “I would love to, but I’m probably going to get in trouble for that.” Many times, they’re going to keep coming up there and saying that.
Naturally, your culture is a good point too. The way the system works allows us to reduce the number of actual PCCs or receptionists that they have. On the backend, what the receptionist or the PCC sees is a number of thumbnails if you want to call, but they’re larger in thumbnails. It’s actual video sessions of each one of the clinics they’re looking at.
What happens, for instance, is we have ten clinics. We could work that with 3.5 PCCs or 3.5 perceptions. It was a huge cost saving. On top of culture, we are also able to keep the best of our front desk people, and we paid a little bit more because we were saving so much money by not having as many people so we could pay an extra $2 or $3 an hour and they were super happy. They were our superstars anyways. We retained the best and cut our costs, so it was a win-win.
Imagine if you have multiple clinics, that’s great. That’s amazing, especially because you can use fewer people to cover more clinics and manage at the front desk effectively. If you have one clinic, do you have clinics in your network that are maybe sharing one full-time person? Maybe I don’t need someone full-time. Maybe I just need some part-time coverage because I’ve got an in-person front desk person who might be pregnant. They want to scale back to part-time. Maybe they do a hybrid approach where they use a virtual person part-time and my other in-person person part-time. Do you see people doing hybrids or where one person can be the front desk for multiple separately owned clinics?
We see a lot of those types of things. Sometimes with single clinics, they may not have a person at all. We work with staffing groups so they can then share that equivalent. They share a portion of an NTE. They also share it with the team typically. If that person goes on vacation or they’re sick, somebody else pops right up into that position because there’s a team of people taking care of them.
You truly never have to worry about the front desk again. You don’t have to have the call in the morning that you’re going to have to figure out what are you going to do when there’s nobody up there. All the problems that come when that occurs. Somebody not doing the job that they were supposed to do so they’re doing this or nobody does it, or you try to treat and also collect copays and schedule. That gets everything behind.With staffing groups, you truly never have to worry about the front desk again. Click To Tweet
We do, as far as you said, the hybrid too. During their busy times, they may need more than one receptionist. They’ll use the Virtual Sally product then or during off hours. They can’t afford to pay overtime or they don’t have someone to come in the early mornings or the late evenings. They will put off sides of those to do it. A lot of different things can be used.
I hadn’t thought about that. Some people might want to extend their office hours, but their front desk person is still going to come in from 8:00 to 4:00 or 8:00 to 5:00. How do you get them to come in at 6:00 AM or how do you handle the front desk at 6:00 AM? How do you handle the 6:00 PM or 7:00 PM patients or the Saturday patients? You don’t want to ask them to come in at that time.
We have that outsourced staffing partners that cover 30 clinics, but they’re all independent practices. They might have 10, 12 or 14 receptionists that they pop in and out. Sometimes, they’ll group by EMRs. This group is on EMR A. This group is on EMR B and so on. They can pop in and out of these practices, and you use Virtual Sally to do that.
Especially when you consider the EMR thing, that might be difficult to train some of those virtual front desk personnel on the different EMRs, so if they’re bouncing between clinics, that could be a difficult challenge for them.
They tend to do pretty well at it because a lot of the billing services that are out there work in a number of EMRs. Most of the time, those staffing agencies are having those types of people that are moving into this type of technology for them. They’re very comfortable with a number of EMRs. They get very good at learning that. They also do a good job of onboarding the clinics for their culture. How do they want that first conversation to go? What do they want to be said? How do they want their schedule to run? Are they running on the hours, in the 30s, in the 40s or a mixture of those? They set all of those things upfront so that they know how their templates are running.
It’s interesting that you guys are bringing this virtual component to the PT realm, and I’m sure you’re doing it outside of PT as well.
You haven’t extended outside of PT?
We’ve been requested but this is what we know.
I might have been skeptical, but I remember from years ago with Tom Dalonzo-Baker. He had a front desk person that was full-time, and she was amazing. She was a rockstar and did great. She said, “I want to work from home.” He’s like, “I don’t know how you can do that.” This was a number of years ago, probably about the same time that you guys started looking into this as well.
She said, “If I can do it from home and keep my same KPIs at the level that they currently are, will you let me do it?” He said, “Yes. Great, let’s try it.” He set her up from home. Some of the stuff she was able to accomplish from home was establishing a full schedule of PT visits prior to the patient even showing up for the initial evaluation and collecting copays before the patient even showed up at the door.
If I hadn’t heard that story, I had to be a little bit more skeptical. It takes a little bit more thought, structure and expectation, and you still hold them accountable. You guys have had enough experience in this where you have the systems and protocols in place to make sure that things don’t slip. That’s welcoming from a PT owner’s point of view, I’m assuming.
A neat thing about ours is when you finish the interaction and it comes up, it’s the same thing that we have for a rating system for our therapist. “How much did you like this experience with your therapist?” It’s the same thing with the receptionist. This grading scale comes up. That’s attached to the receptionist. You can pull that up on the admin panel and see Nathan’s doing great. Mark’s not doing so well. We either need to do some training with Mark, or we need to say, “This is maybe not the right thing for you.” You can follow all that stuff and see what your patients are saying about their experience with it. We’ve had good feedback on it.
Tell me a little bit about the station and what it looks like. We’ve talked about the interaction with the front desk person. How do copays get collected in a virtual situation? Are there receipts printed out? Can a schedule be printed? How does that work? What does the station look like?
It’s a slick-looking station. It’s an all-in-one computer. It’s a 27-inch screen. It’s touch-sensitive. It has an integrated speaker, microphone and processors integrated into the back, so it’s very sleek looking. There is a credit card criminal so you can take credit card payments and debit payments right there on-site. There’s a multi-functional machine scanner and printer that’s on site. Receipts, for instance, can be printed on demand. If somebody wants a receipt for their credit card transaction, it’d be printed right on the printer there.
Even though the receptionist is remote, they can print other things like work notes. They can also scan documents and multi documents if they have some practices like they have documents filled out on paper. They can do that right there. They can print the documents on demand as well. Sometimes people store up behind the machine, but they can go to their seats, fill out their documents, come back up and scan all in. Even if it’s up to 30 pages and it goes directly into their EMR, it’s pretty slick.
ID cards or insurance cards?
They can either be scanned in or picture captured from that.
Just like out the phone up.
Like prescriptions when they come in, if you’re using a kiosk type of thing and you can’t scan that, then you’ve got to get that prescription to get that claim out the door. You can get that. They can scan that and go directly into the EMR, their MRI and X-ray results. If they have that report, you can scan all of that in and drop it in so that when the therapist sees the patient, all that is able to be pulled up for them.
There’s one thing it doesn’t do, which is important. It does not display PHI on the screen. There are some other systems that they’ll have them fill out their information on the screen. That’s a HIPAA problem. We don’t display anything like that on the screen.
If the new patient paperwork is in paper format, it can be scanned in otherwise. For those people who have EHRs that allow you to send it to their phones or via email prior to the visit, it can still also get taken care of. Tell us a little bit about you guys. You started years ago, so this has been a wild ride. It sounds like the pandemic might have helped you more than hurt you. Tell us a little bit about where you came from to get to this point.
Years ago, in our practice, we had seven offices. You can imagine the number of call-ins or the amount of time that you’d have people quit. Mark had a big background in technology so we’d done several other technology adventures and stuff. One day, I had it with the front desk. I called our practice manager up and said, “We’re going to go virtual with the front desk.” She said, “What?”
I said, “We’re going to do a virtual front desk.” This was before it was very popular, and she’s like, “I’ve never seen you not do anything you said you were going to do. I guess we’re on.” I came home. Mark and I started talking about it. He used his technology background. We put a few things together and piecemealed it here and there.
He was very kludgy at first, like Skype sessions and taped together with nuts and bolts during an interview, but it worked. Patients and staff hated it at first. Everybody hated it, but it was cutting costs and was working not very well, but we kept refining it over the years. It was about a couple of years ago. It got to the point where so many people were coming through. Particularly doctors and other people in the profession were saying, “This is neat. You should do something with this.” We hired off the development, built it out, and Wendy said, “We’ve done this before.”
We launched it at PPPs years ago.
It’s been fun. We continue to refine it and add features to it. Customers tell us things that they want. We’ll put those in there as we can and things that we think, “This would be great if we can do that.”
Do you see this evolving even more?
Where do you see this going?
Tell me about that.
Seventy percent of patients that come in are return visits. There’s a lot you can do with that, automating that process. Everything from facial recognition to AI as far as selecting the patient from a scheduling list so they have to do nothing with this check-in. They don’t have to talk to anybody and can walk by monitor, and they’re in. There’s a whole host of things that are mobile, for instance. You could check in here and not even worry about coming to a kiosk at all. The nice thing about a product too is it’s on a licensing agreement structure. As long as you’re paying the monthly licensing fee, you get all the upgrades. It’ll always be the latest up-to-date feature.
You’re talking about some of the electronic opportunities there with AI, facial recognition and mobile. People are going to start expecting that. When they walk in, we’re getting a little bit more detached as a culture from social interaction. To be able to walk into an office and say, “I’m here,” and my phone says, “How do you want to pay your copay? Do you want to pay this with Apple Pay or another card,” and then push the other button. It alerts everybody that I’m here. If there are any notifications, it gets pushed to my phone. I can see that being a way of the future.
The thing is that we still need some way to be able to interact if things don’t come off exactly like you want them to. We’ve used some of those products. The problem is like at the grocery store. When it doesn’t work, you’ve got to have somebody standing there to come over and say, “It’s in the bag. It’s not in the bag. Here’s your ID.” A lot of things will get automated, but instead of having to have somebody standing there to what I call babysit the kiosk, you can have that done virtually. You’ll be able to cover more offices with fewer people the more things that are automated with that.
You still need that person to be able to say, “It doesn’t see an appointment for you at all because you were supposed to be at the clinic across the street instead of here, but we’d like to keep you here.” We’re going to go ahead and bounce in there and say, “I’m glad to see you. I’m sorry we don’t see an appointment for you, but let’s see if we can get you worked in today.” That’s one example of the things that can happen.
AI can even be incorporated in some of the questions they’re asked because even like an initial value, there are a lot of questions that patients ask that are very standard questions. Probably 89% of the questions that are asked by a receptionist are questions they ask everybody. A lot of times, the answers are pretty similar too. You could start to do some of that stuff as well.
Your biggest concern, worst case scenario, is there was a power outage. Is that about right?
There are backups.
We do a couple of things. If your internet goes down and your EMR is not going to work either, we do encourage people to do a cellular backup. That’s an easy way to get that right back up. If the power’s out, the power’s out. You’re going to be in a whole different module.
It might not be treating altogether.
It changes a lot of things. If the receptionist was sitting there, your credit cards wouldn’t process. They wouldn’t be able to schedule you in the EMR if they couldn’t do that either. You’re going to go back. I always tell people the number of times that happens versus the number of times that your front desk person doesn’t come to work is way different. I’ll take note that it’s in the power. All day long. Whenever the phone rang before 6:00 in the morning before we had this, the worst words in the world would come out of my mouth. I knew what was going to happen that day. All we say is, “We are going to pick up additional office.” Everyone’s picking up whatever their primary, secondary offices were.
Tell me a little bit about the virtual assistants. Are these people expected to be trained by the owners, the front desk people in that clinic, or does your company provide some of that training for the virtual assistants? How does that work?
We provide the training for them and also some best practices because it’s a little different in this meeting. We have a whole list of best practices that we provide. Even part of the training is part of that as well. Also if we’re using one of the outside staffing companies, then it’s a train-to-trainer. We train them on how to train, and then they will in turn provide those services.
If there’s a remote office and say there are 2 to 3 people managing 5 to 6 clinics, then you can rest assured that all three of those people have the same training on your clinic specifically so that they can help and support if someone needs to go on vacation or get sick.
You also gain the fact that they are teaching them the best practices for a front desk person. How to have those difficult conversations about money if they need to, or how to engage the customer? They get all that background training that you don’t have to pay for. That comes from the company itself.
You mentioned that if you have this A player and they want to move or start working from home, maybe they are pregnant and they have a child, but they would still like to work from home. This provides that capability, I’d assume.
If they get transferred because of a partner or spouse that they have to go somewhere else, then you don’t have to lose them. If they like their job, you like them, let them take it on the road with them. They can use this product and do it at any time.
We found that to be a big thing during COVID because we had some staff that turned up COVID positive but they were asymptomatic. Yet they didn’t want their PTO, so they went home and logged in from home. They could still work even though they had COVID and felt fine, so they didn’t have to use their PTO so they were happy.
That’s super cool and such a benefit to those people. Especially I can imagine a front desk person if they love their job, and there are those PCCs that love the culture, the family and the service that we’re providing, and then they move. It can be so anxious and tear-jerking that they have to leave. This still provides them with that opportunity if they love it.
Anxious for both parties. It is nice. It was funny. Before we went to market, as Mark said, initially, this is where we’re going because you could see the future. You knew the reimbursement was going down and costs were going up. That escalated lately with the Medicare cuts that we got with the cost of labor, inflation and everything going up. As we went forward, as he told you, they like it better.
Before we went to market, I was like, “We need to see if this is what people say that they want or are they saying that because that’s what we want to hear?” I took our group and said, “We’ve been thinking and decided that we’re going back into the clinic. We’re at a table this. We’re going back to the old method. Everybody’s going to go back to clinics.” I was like, “Are there any questions?” They still sat there, looked at me and didn’t say anything.
I walked out and went to my office. Not more than maybe a minute later, their manager came around the corner, and she goes, “We need to talk to you. We don’t want to go back to the offices. If you put us back in the office, we quit.” I was like, “Are you kidding me?” She was serious because she thought I was serious. I was like, “I was just kidding. I wanted to see if you guys did like this method.” They do. They like that. Sometimes we forget that they can, at times, get pretty beat up upfront too. Sometimes they’ll say, “Mrs. So-and-so is such a witch. I can’t believe how mean she was.”Sometimes, we forget that the front desk can at times get pretty beat up upfront too. Click To Tweet
They’re great to us but they’ve been hitting on them hard. This does give them a little bit of protection from that. They could say, “Mrs. Jones, I can see you’re upset. Why don’t I give you a minute, and I’ll touch base with you in a little bit?” You can diffuse that situation. They have a lot more control when they don’t have to sit there and get beat up.
I can see that. That was such a benefit.
I forgot to mention. We had a situation where somebody walked into one of our clinics who was an unsavory character, but since the live streaming video is always watching these waiting rooms, the person walked through, and they recognized it wasn’t a patient and that somebody shouldn’t be here. They called 911. They were there in two minutes. It’s not a security system, but the fact that it has that live-streaming video at all times looking, it’s another little safety net.
You almost preferred that they were virtual in that situation and weren’t there in person.
Our clinicians were all protected behind their locked door from the waiting room to that, and then there was no one else but that person there.
Is that something in this situation, particular to your system, that you’d recommend that there is a locked door from the waiting room to the treatment? Does that matter? I don’t think I had any of my clinics that had a locked door.
This is a pure work comp clinic and not the greatest in town. It was a necessity.
We had it locked. We had a person there.
What didn’t we cover in terms of having a virtual front desk or remote front desk person in place that we haven’t covered so far? What have we not covered?
There are two other things that are pretty significant. If you’re looking to grow your practice, you want to add another office. One of the biggest headaches is hiring that front desk person and training them. The first 2 or 3 months are going to make a lot of errors. What we found is we didn’t hire anybody. The pool of receptions absorbed that extra office. There was no training and hiring another person so that was great.
The second thing we did was we eliminated the front office. In any of our clinics, as we were implementing this, we removed that front office space and made it a more treatable therapy space. When we open new offices, we can even open with smaller footprints because we don’t need that reception area. It’s all treating space with the exception of the virtual salad kiosk. Those are two big benefits that we found that we weren’t expecting.
I did think about that in one of my clinics. What would I do with the front desk? It’s awkward to have this station off to the side, in front or something like that. There’s this unused square footage in my office. How could that be leveraged to increase the size of my clinic?
We’ve seen some clinics where the front office is 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the square footage. It’s a lot of space. We’re reclaiming mega therapy space.
If you can add 1 or 2 more tables, there you go. It makes up for it. If people wanted to get in touch with you guys, how would they do that? Where are you guys hanging out?
We’re located in Roanoke, Virginia. VirtualSally.com is the easiest way to get ahold. Everything is there. You can even schedule a demo from the website if you want to see it. We do lots and lots of demos, and people get it quickly. We’re not usually more than five minutes into the demo and they go, “I get it. That makes sense.” As you well know, it’s a big problem for everybody.
The cost of the front desk person, it’s always been an issue, but finding a good front desk person can be difficult. I love what you talked about how this can support you in your expansion because that second clinic might not be full, to begin with. That might depend on the success of your front desk person performing well. Are you on any other social media outlets?
We have two videos out there too.
I’d recommend people to look into that. Thank you for taking the time with me, Mark and Wendy. It’s great having you on. It’s interesting and amazing to see what the capabilities are out there. I love having this platform to show PT owners what’s out there. Thanks for coming on. I appreciate it.
Thank you so much. We appreciate it.
We love new PTs and OTs.
There you go. Thank you.
Thank you. Bye.
About Mark Lucas
As a successful serial entrepreneur, Mark has experience building technology startups, aggregating highly effective teams and successful exits. Mark started his career with the Xerox Corporation, and during that tenure he and Wendy started Lucas Therapies. He then left Xerox to start his first software company, ProVox Technologies, an early pioneer in voice to text technology and EMR, starting in the PT space. After winning Microsoft’s Product of the Year Award in the Emerging Technologies Sector in 2000, the company was sold soon after. Then, he became the first franchisee of Five Guys Burgers & Fries, building out 11 stores and exiting in 2010. Since then, he has consulted many emerging technology companies and worked to help build Virtual Sally. Mark will utilize this experience as CEO of Mill Mountain Technologies.
About Wendy Lucas
Wendy started her PT career with a group that served a variety of practice settings allowing her to develop a wide base of experience and leadership as she became their PT Director. In 1992, Wendy and her husband started their own private practice – Lucas Therapies. That practice grew to 8 offices and in 2020 they joined a larger group. Along the way, Wendy was always active in the APTA and VPTA, serving on the board of the VPTA for several years. Wendy also served as adjunct faculty at Jefferson College for Health Sciences. Wendy has won Top Doctor’s award as the top physical therapist in Southwest and Central Virginia every year since 2012 (when the award was created) and Lucas Therapies the top PT Practice. Wendy has fostered the growth of many therapists in career development and opening their own practices.
In 1998, Wendy and her husband Mark co-founded a voice to text dictation product that eventually became ProVox Technologies and won Microsoft’s product of the year for emerging technologies before being sold in 2004. In 2015, Wendy had the idea to use their technology background to pivot the practice completely to virtual front desk services. She and Mark assembled a team that developed what today is Virtual Sally. Virtual Sally served Lucas Therapies for 7 years before its public launching at the Private Practice Section Meeting in 2021. Today Virtual Sally is the premier front desk virtual experience and is embraced by many practices across the nation.
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