Make Online Scheduling Work for Your Practice
Patients come up with many excuses to justify not going to the dentist. Maybe they think treatment is too expensive, or they can’t forget about a negative experience they had in the past. Whatever the reason, you and your team members need to find ways to make their visit as easy and stress-free as possible when they do come in.
This of course includes putting patients at ease from the moment they walk through the door, offering exceptional customer service, and providing education so patients understand just how important it is to maintain their oral health. The focus on alleviating stress associated with going to the dentist should begin before patients even make an appointment.
Offering online scheduling makes it easy for patients to schedule a visit with your practice. They don’t have to worry about calling in only to be placed on hold, or told the team is at lunch and will call them back. These situations lead to frustration, with many patients hanging up before they talk to someone about scheduling – costing your practice money.
Online scheduling offers many benefits for your patients and practice, and it is something I suggest you consider implementing. Here are just a few of those benefits, and advice on how to make an online scheduling system work for your practice.
It gives you access to patients who are too busy to call. There’s no question many of your patients lead busy lives. Between work and family commitments, they don’t have a lot of time to make phone calls during the day, so they don’t. When they need to schedule an appointment, they prefer to do so online, whether it’s from their smartphone, tablet or home computer.
According to Zocdoc, an online scheduling tool for the medical profession, 45% of appointments booked through this system come in after business hours, with many patients seeing a doctor within 24 hours after making an appointment request. I’m not saying implementing online scheduling will lead to a 45% increase in patient visits (though that sure would be nice!) but it does give you the opportunity to reach patients who just don’t have time to call during the day.
It makes your employees happy. Team members would rather not have to manage phone calls all day long. Constantly ringing phones can be stressful and takes them away from other tasks that are beneficial to the practice.
While team members should still be trained to properly answer phones and have access to detailed scripts for certain situations, using online scheduling will reduce the number of appointment-related calls coming in. Team members will have more time to focus on patients who are physically in the practice – creating an exceptional experience that will make those patients want to call your practice their dental home.
It shows your practice is modern. Patients expect to be able to make and confirm appointments online or via text. If your only option is a phone call, they might think your practice is out of date.
It makes team members more efficient. This is especially true if your online scheduling system is synced with your practice management system. There is less data entry required, again freeing up team members to focus on other revenue-generating tasks.
How It Works
In general, you’ll want patients to be able to book appointments from your website or social media profiles. The booking system will give you a practice-specific URL that includes information about your practice and has the ability to schedule appointments. You won’t have to worry about designing the website or adding scheduling functionality; the hosting company handles that. You just need to maintain your profile with current information such as hours, services and accepted insurance plans.
When the system syncs with your practice management software, patients will be able to see which appointment times are available and choose what works best for them. Because both systems are up-to-date, you won’t have to worry about patients selecting times that are no longer available. When that happens, someone from the practice will need to follow up with patients so they can select another time, which defeats the purpose of online scheduling.
Some solutions can read your schedule, but can’t add appointments. That means once the appointment is confirmed through the booking system, someone will have to go in and manually enter it into your practice management software. Through other systems, patients can only email the practice to request times. If none are available, someone again must reach out to find a time that works. Not ideal, but still more convenient than scheduling every appointment via telephone.
A Practice Builder
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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