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5 Best Practices for Online Patient Scheduling

Posted on May 17, 2022 by Mike Rigert

    woman typing on smartphone

    Given the pace of technological advances, you can hardly blink without seeing major changes in how we live, how we work, and how we interact. And it’s likely no big surprise that the phenomena is impacting how people access healthcare. 

    In place of a provider-centric approach, patients are migrating toward a more technology-driven, consumer-oriented tact for how they engage and communicate with their practices. Patients want real-time digital self-service capabilities from their providers just like they have in other sectors. 

    That’s why 60 percent of patients prefer digital scheduling over a phone call because it’s quick, convenient, and accessible 24/7. Folks want to schedule an appointment online with you the same way they make purchases on Amazon, get a ride on Uber, or order a meal through DoorDash. 

    Do you offer your patients online medical scheduling? If not, you should. If you do, do you optimize that tool to book more appointments and grow your practice? Online appointment scheduling can be a game-changer both for you and your patients.

    Why Online Patient Scheduling Matters

    In a nutshell, the compelling reason why online patient scheduling matters is that it can significantly impact your bottom line. Consider the following stats:

    • A whopping 80 percent of patients prefer a practice that offers online scheduling.
    • More than one third of patients of all ages said they’d switch providers to get more modern communications.
    • Sixty-four percent of patients equated the availability of three or more online services to the expectation of a better patient experience.

    When it comes to the business for implementing online patient scheduling, it comes down to these four realities:

    1. Gain a Competitive Advantage

    Online patient scheduling sets you apart from your competitors and provides a modern consumer convenience that patients are keying on. People want to book an appointment in real-time 24/7 from their smartphone instead of calling your office.

    2. Attract New Patients

    More and more, prospective patients searching online reviews and practice websites for a provider will choose someone who has more digital patient self-service tools like online scheduling systems. They’ll visit your website to see if you have current digital appointment availability and know that they can book a visit on demand. Nobody wants to get stuck on an average 8-minute phone call to secure an appointment slot.

    3. Drive Patient Retention

    It costs five times as much to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. That doesn’t even factor in the customer lifetime value (CLV), or the revenue a patient will generate from long-term loyalty to your practice. Offering patients a digital patient scheduling system will help you prevent patients from switching to competitors that do provide that service. Give your patients every modern amenity to simply scheduling and improve patient loyalty.

    4. Save Staff Time and Create Efficiencies

    Staffing shortages are affecting all industries but probably nowhere as critically as healthcare practices. Reduce the manual phone workload on your front office staff or call center with an online scheduling tool. Staff will be able to focus on more complex tasks and you’ll get the operational efficiencies that lower costs, allow you to see more patients with fewer staff, and increase your practice’s revenue.

    For all of these reasons, giving your patients what they want—a convenient and easy online scheduling tool—will result in happier patients. It will also contribute to helping you book more appointments, fill your patient schedule, and increase profitability.

     

    Best Practices for Online Scheduling

    Just because you have an online patient scheduling tool doesn’t mean you're necessarily maximizing its potential. It’s important to apply certain tactics to make sure you create greater awareness about patients’ ability to schedule online, that they have broad access to the feature, and that they are properly guided through the appointment workflow. The following are key steps to ensure you’re getting the most out of your online scheduling capabilities:

    1. Practice Website: Make sure you place your online scheduling tool button or link in a highly visible, prominent location on your practice’s website homepage. This will help not only returning patients but also prospective patients seeking a new provider to navigate to your tool to book or request an appointment. You also should develop and share awareness messaging, including signage in your physical practice location, to promote buzz and awareness about the availability of your online appointment booking system.

    2. Newsletters: Include a button hyperlink in patient newsletters to give people another touchpoint to access your digital scheduling feature. This provides yet another opportunity to educate patients that they no longer are limited to booking an appointment by phone or in-office. Combined with your pertinent patient health education in your newsletters, it will help remind patients to book overdue preventive or chronic care management visits they may have otherwise forgotten about.

    3. Text/Email Reminders: They’ve made the appointment, now make sure they get there. Send patients text and email appointment reminders based on their communication preference. An automated appointment reminder system that sends reminders at a proven cadence improves on-time arrivals and helps reduce costly no-shows. Both you and your patients are impacted when they fail to make an appointment.

    4. Patient Waiting List: Use a patient scheduling tool that allows you to integrate a digital waiting list to fill late cancellations. Send out a quick text to alert patients about the appointment opening to avoid having to make phone calls. Your patients will be pleased that they’re able to get in sooner than anticipated and you’ll be able to recoup otherwise lost revenue by filling holes in your schedule.

    5. Automated Patient Recall: Be sure you compliment your online scheduling functionality with a recall system to get patients back for critical preventive care and chronic care management visits. A recall tool can automatically send patients text, email or voice notifications based on criteria such as patient age, diagnosis, or appointment type. You’ll be able to reduce gaps in patient care for better outcomes while helping fill your waiting room and generate more revenue.

    Key Takeaways

    Clearly, your ability to offer patients the ease, convenience, and speed of online scheduling can be a win-win for both parties. Applying best practices can help you optimize that technology to benefit patients, prospective patients,  your front office staff, and your practice. A robust online patient scheduling tool paired with best practices can help you achieve the following:

    • Offer an in-demand self-service amenity modern patients expect and look for.
    • Give you a competitive advantage to differentiate your practice from competitors that will attract new patients and build loyalty in returning patients.
    • Minimize the effects of front office labor shortages and reduce call volumes so staff can direct their attention to in-office patients and higher priority tasks.
    • Create efficiencies that help lower operational costs, book more appointments, and generate greater revenue. 

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    To learn more winning best practice to book more patient appointments, check out the guide, “An Expert Guide to Scheduling More Appointments.”

    Download Now

    Mike Rigert

    Mike Rigert

    Mike Rigert is a writer and content marketing specialist with more than a decade of expertise in the B2B SaaS healthcare sector. He enjoys finding fresh and creative ways to tell the story about Solutionreach's innovative and life-changing patient relationship management platform. In his spare time, Mike enjoys diving into books, geeking out with scifi, expanding his knowledge of military history, and spending time with his wife and three kids.

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