On March 16, with cases of the novel coronavirus on the rise, Dr. Manal Ibrahim woke up with a knot in her stomach yet determined to reinvent her practice during this unprecedented time in history. Up until that point, Dr. Ibrahim, Dr. Christine Gin and their team had been treating patients at their Naperville and Shorewood orthodontic offices as news of the virus began to circulate. While they had been taking a host of precautions, they were still offering face-to-face care. Yet, after evaluating the news and recommendations from the CDC, American Association of Orthodontists and the local dental organizations, Dr. Ibrahim made the difficult decision to close the physical offices to all but emergency appointments.
“It was emotional,” Dr. Ibrahim said. “We pride ourselves on being there for our patients and offering exceptional care. This was the first time we’ve ever had to close the offices like this. It had to be done in order to help flatten the curve and keep our patients, team members and community safe but that doesn’t mean it was easy.”
Dr. Ibrahim’s unease quickly turned into resolve. As anyone who knows her can attest, she’s not one to kick up her heels, especially when her patients are involved. As soon as she closed the office down, she immediately started to pivot the practice in a way that allowed them to still take great care of their patients. Considering innovative technology is a cornerstone of the practice, she came up with creative ways to continue serving their base, even during a pandemic.
For quite some time, the Shorewood and Naperville orthodontic offices had a virtual video consultation platform in place for new patients who preferred this as a convenient option. This was very enticing during the stay-at-home order and helped patients start their smile journey safely from the comfort of their own home. Then, Dr. Ibrahim launched a virtual visit option where existing patients could check-in virtually with the practice to monitor their treatment progress. The patient would upload current photos of their teeth, allowing the practice to compare those with past images in the system and track expected changes. Dr. Ibrahim and Dr. Gin were on call to connect with patients via Facetime, Google Duo, phone or email.
Thankfully, as a high-tech practice, they’d already invested in cutting-edge treatment appliances that really came into play during this time. All of their braces patients have self-ligating brackets with SureSmile custom, prescription wires that are robotically-bent offering extreme precision. Their shape-memory alloy material continues to straighten the teeth without the constant tightening and adjustments that conventional wires need. As for Invisalign patients, their aligners are created with the necessary programmed movements based on Dr. Ibrahim and Dr. Gin’s prescription. These customized trays conveniently straightened their teeth so they could make significant progress while staying home.
The virtual visits allowed Dr. Ibrahim and Dr. Gin to keep tabs on their patients’ progress like they would at an in-person visit. For patients with rubber bands or other appliances, they could let them know if it was time to update their protocol or even stop if they had reached their goals. The team also implemented curbside pickup so patients could get their next batch of Invisalign aligners, get more rubber bands or replace a missing retainer safely.
Braces patient Grace Thomas was one of many patients who did virtual appointments.
“We were so appreciative that the Innovative Orthodontic Centers’ team was able to provide appointments during the stay-at-home order,” said Grace’s mom. “It gave me comfort that my daughter’s treatment was on track. Dr. Ibrahim actually discovered an issue that would have set us back several months if untreated. The team was so flexible and provided detailed step-by-step instructions to correct the issue with rubber band placement. We were also able to have more frequent check-ins to ensure changes were progressing as expected. They really provided the best care even during a time of turbulence.”
In fact, the team at Innovative Orthodontic Centers managed to have hundreds of virtual appointments during the shutdown. Patients continued making progress just as planned without being seen in the office thanks to their remote visit technology. They also had a number of successful virtual consultations, getting new patients started on the path to a beautiful smile from the comfort of their own home. They credit the improved communication with patients for making the process streamlined and smooth.
Moving forward, the team plans to continue to use technology to offer virtual visits to make treatment even more effective and convenient. Heather Hayes, whose son is in phase II treatment with braces and SureSmile wires, is thrilled at the prospect.
“One silver lining in the COVID situation was virtual orthodontist’s appointments,” Heather said. “We had a very thorough virtual exam, which was compared to past images. The use of these virtual appointments in the future will reduce the number of in office appointments needed which will be a huge time saver! No missed school and no travel time.”
“I think one thing we’ve proven to our patients and ourselves is that we’re ready for anything,” said Dr. Ibrahim. “We were able to provide uninterrupted treatment and care while achieving the same fantastic results.”
If you’re thinking about orthodontic treatment, schedule a complimentary in-person or virtual consultation at Innovative Orthodontic Centers. The practice’s signature high-tech approach will help you get your dream smile more conveniently and safely.