The day just began, and your hygienist’s ultrasonic scaler just broke. The hygienist has a full day of appointments booked and using hand instruments is going to cost time and money. You know the problem can be fixed; you just need to reach out to the company you purchased it from to get assistance. Which distributor did you get it from? Which sales representative did you work with? Is that representative still with the company? Suddenly, your broken scaler has become a day-long problem.
“I’ve felt the angst of clinicians saying, ‘How do I avoid the loss of revenue from a broken tool?’” Michael McCarthy, chief marketing officer of vTail, says. “‘I have to disrupt the whole flow of the office to ask the office manager to track down where we got it in the first place. I’m going to spend all this time just trying to find who I need to contact to get this thing fixed!’”
With so many product manufacturers and service providers in the market, it can feel impossible to track down resources and assistance when needed, especially with the changes in how sales representatives are interacting with dental practice decision makers. Barry Wolfenson, an executive in the medical technology field and cofounder and CEO of vTail, saw the landscape begin to shift as sales representatives stopped traveling to locations.
Without this in-person presence, Wolfenson knew there was a need for better communication between practices and company representatives, as well as easier access to product resources and industry news. Companies needed a new way to connect with clinicians, and although many turned to technology, there was no elegant, quick way for a busy clinician to get in touch with a representative from a certain company. The industry needed a better way.
“There are no more [representatives] on-site,” McCarthy says. “That is a thing of the past. Maybe there’s a lunch and learn, but the days of [representatives] walking in practices and hospitals and talking to doctors is forever changed. But Barry had an idea he brought into fruition right before the [COVID-19] pandemic.”
This free, virtual app is said to improve efficiency in connecting with sales representatives and purchasing dental products for the practice. For instance, a practice can communicate with manufacturers through the app’s platform in a relatively short amount of time. vTail is also providing a product database and newsfeed for professionals to browse topics and products that are relevant to them. This app is HIPAA compliant to protect patient and practitioner data.
email@example.com | vtail.co
Wolfenson’s idea was vTail, an app that not only connects clinicians with representatives but also with products, continuing education (CE), and news. vTail first launched in the wound care market in 2020, but the vTail team quickly saw a pressing need in the dental market, as well. vTail was first announced at the Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting in February 2022 and went live for the dental industry in June 2022.
vTail is always free to health care professionals and aims to serve as a comprehensive guide for all the practice’s assigned representatives from companies participating on the app. The app keeps users up-to-date on the latest industry news, gives them access to an extensive product database, and provides a plethora of CE opportunities and resources.
In the 4 months vTail has been live for dentistry, more than 6000 practitioners and team members have signed up, and the number is growing. As the user base grows, so do the resources the app provides. Companies are also signing up, making the database more comprehensive every day. Companies that join vTail pay to be on the app, just like buying advertising in a publication. This allows the app to be free to health care professionals while providing companies with a way to connect with clinicians and provide resources to potential customers. “Basically, we just want to be the most modern day, state-of-the-art Rolodex that connects clinicians quickly to resources,” McCarthy says. “That’s it.”
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, field sales teams changed frequently. Pandemic shutdowns exacerbated the issue, as sales forces were drastically reduced, with some big distributors laying off nearly half their sales force. This left many practices with an unknown sales representative, or without one entirely, which was a particular problem for white-space dentists who were isolated to begin with. Now that dentist in Billings, Montana, who only saw a representative once a year has no representative at all. Who are they supposed to reach out to?
vTail has stepped up to the plate to answer that question. The app has updated lists of regional and local company contacts, making connecting with a representative in a particular area a simple process. When a user signs on to vTail, the app’s algorithm automatically matches the practice with the participating companies’ representative who services that geography. Instead of stopping by for a visit, the representative can consult with the clinician or staff member through the app.
“During the pandemic, [representatives] were problematic because of fear of disease spread and infection control,” McCarthy says. “We didn’t want any extemporaneous people in the office who [didn’t] need to be there. But getting ahold of someone at a company could be time-consuming, particularly if you don’t know your [representative] or even who they are. Communication was difficult.”
Luckily, communication on the app is simple. Users can reach out to representatives on the app’s built-in chat, audio, and video call features. And unlike other communications platforms, vTail is HIPAA compliant, allowing clinicians to share personal health information if needed.
“All the communications that go on between clinicians or staff and a representative are protected,” McCarthy says. “No other company can see them. Clinicians can share patient health information about specific cases to get advice on the best tools to use.”
For example, a clinician may have a question about the best approach for a particular case. A clinician can send an x-ray to the company and ask, “Which bur should I use on this tooth?” and the communication will be entirely HIPAA compliant.
The app also puts clinicians in control of communication, so they won’t be bombarded with promotions or unnecessary messages that eat up their time. “The clinician controls the communication,” McCarthy says. “They decide how to contact the [representative], be that a text, phone message, or video message through the app. It’s up to the [representative] for the company to respond in a timely fashion. [However], that [representative] doesn’t automatically get the clinician’s cell phone number; they can only recontact them through the app.”
In addition to supplying users with a Rolodex of company representatives, vTail serves as a database of thousands of products, including images, product specifications, instructions for use, information on reimbursements, and educational tools and videos. vTail is a valuable resource because it isn’t a sales platform, it’s an information portal.
“vTail isn’t about commerce,” McCarthy says. “We are here to give you all the product information you need, not to sell you anything. We’re happy to direct users to where they need to go to buy the product. Companies can add links to take users off the app to wherever they sell their products. But we aren’t focused on sales; we just want to provide a thorough product database for our customers.”
If a clinician wants to find out more about a specific handpiece on the app, they can access the product by clicking on it, and a mini file will come up that has all the product information, a how-to video and instruction sheet, a fee program, and essentially any digital assets the company has can be attached to the product for users to view. This is also useful when exploring new products or companies and emerging offerings. vTail hosts many smaller companies that may not have a huge platform elsewhere but are offering innovative solutions that are streamlining dentistry.
“This platform gives clinicians and team members an opportunity to connect with companies that can provide them with new solutions, including smaller companies that may not have other publicity bandwidth but offer amazing products,” McCarthy says. “There are great dental companies, but they just don’t have the money to either go through distribution or build a national sales team. [This] app gives them a marketing presence and an instant connection to users.”
In addition to finding and learning about new products or accessing product resources, vTail users from dental service organizations (DSOs) or multilocation practices can add their own formularies for easy access to products they already utilize. The app’s formulary filters map the formulary to the product database, making it easy to keep staff at multiple locations on the same page about products.
“Any clinician, no matter where they work, can benefit from contacting companies, but DSOs are even more complicated because they have formularies with manufacturers or dealers/distributors,” McCarthy says. “With the intelligent product database, they have an easy visual resource where a clinician at one location could say, ‘I have to put an order in, but I forget what gauze I can buy or what loupes or gloves I can buy.’ Then the clinicians have easy access to a visual formulary to streamline the process.”
vTail also comes in handy for DSOs when it comes to expediting contact with a representative of a company. In the scenario of the broken ultrasonic scaler, it becomes even more complicated in a DSO setting, as the doctor has to call corporate to say a product is down, then corporate has to figure out the status of the scaler.
“They have to figure out [whether] the DSO bought the tool or it was inherited from the practice,” McCarthy says. “They have to determine [whether] it’s in or out of warranty. Is there a replacement readily available? It just adds even more time to solve that satellite clinic’s problems. Hopefully, vTail will now empower that satellite clinic to directly talk with the manufacturer or the dealer/distributor and eliminate all the extra time-consuming steps.”
vTail is all about connecting the dental community with resources, so it comes as no surprise that the third pillar of the platform focuses on education. In addition to having instant access to representatives or product specifications, vTail users can access an ever-growing library of CE opportunities—on demand and in person. By pooling CE resources from companies, publications, and specialty CE providers, the platform gives clinicians and team members the ability to search for CE opportunities by location, time, or both.
“[Through] research, [we learned] that dentists, hygienists, or anyone [who] wants CE credit [and] to be able to go quickly to a place and say, ‘I need credit hours, and I want to find something within 10 miles that’s free and on ergonomics,’” McCarthy says. “So, we created an engine that can quickly provide a list that measures those criteria. Or if you’re planning ahead and want to turn your CE into a family destination event, you can search for, say, what’s happening in Greece next year that’s dental related, and the engine will cover that, as well. Basically, we’re building what will hopefully be the most powerful search engine to find CE that fits your criteria.”
It’s not just big companies or events that will be featured. Clinicians and organizations can submit their events to the platform to be available for others to sign up or view, bringing CE down to a community level, as well. “If somebody wants to submit a local study club that has something like that, they will have the ability to upload and promote their program,” McCarthy says. “We want it to be an organic, growing database that can provide people with the most relevant resources possible.
Get Your Information on the Go
As a hot spot for company information, vTail provides latest industry news, emerging research, and publications in a carefully curated newsfeed. Each user can select their particular individual interests and get updates curated to those interests. They can also choose the companies they want to follow or interact with, and they will get company updates if they so desire.
“Every company that comes on also gets a dedicated newsfeed where they can post a news item, a promotion on a product, or a CE course, but we serve it in a bite-sized sentence or 2,” McCarthy says. “Then the reader can scroll through…and if something is appealing to them, they can click through out of the app and learn more.”
McCarthy and the vTail team are already seeing positive responses to the newsfeed feature, which enables members of the dental industry to stay updated on innovations in their specialties. The quick accessibility to the news is apparent in the emerging browsing patterns of vTail users.
“The real hot times for the newsfeed are 7 am and 6 pm,” McCarthy says. “You know the reader is in line at Starbucks or Dunkin’ and they have a few minutes, so they’re inspecting their newsfeed [because] it’s right there and served up in such digestible pieces.”
This convenience of information is something that McCarthy stresses is the underlying mission of vTail: Making information accessible to clinicians whenever they need it and building relationships between clinicians and companies for more productive, efficient interactions. As more companies and clinicians sign on, new features, content, and tools are rapidly being added to the app. “Our goal is not to have clinicians using vTail every day,” McCarthy says. “But it’s a resource that’s there when you need it. We want to make the industry stronger by supporting dentists and dental teams with the information they need when they need it.”