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Why Online Scheduling Is Vital to Retain, Attract Patients

Posted on Mar 08, 2022 by Mike Rigert

    calendar on smartphone

    Today’s more digital savvy and consumer-oriented patients expect a lot more when they interact with healthcare practices. Offering patients greater digital options to engage easier and more conveniently with you will increase your ability to retain existing patients, attract new ones, and create efficiencies that reduce staff workload. 

    Online appointment scheduling is increasingly one of those high-demand features that patients crave. Eighty percent of patients prefer a practice that offers online scheduling. It gives them the ability to easily book an appointment from their smartphone or other device 24/7 without ever having to make a call. It’s a critical function in your digital tool belt that helps your practice stand out from the crowd, helps build patient satisfaction and loyalty, and helps you win over new patients looking for a modern, patient-centric practice.

    Why Online Patient Scheduling Matters 

    Market Demand

    More patients than ever before are looking for healthcare practices who offer online scheduling options. In a smartphone-centered world, patients have gotten used to the ease and convenience of going online to book restaurant reservations, get a seat on a flight, and conduct other business. It’s no surprise then that patients increasingly expect the same type of service from practices. In one study, patients will choose a practice that is farther away but has online scheduling by a 2 to 1 margin.

    Patient Ease and Convenience

    More patients are gravitating toward online scheduling because it’s fast, easy and convenient. Since the average time it takes to book an appointment by phone call is eight minutes, most would opt for the 30-second online scheduling option. Your patients are busy and don’t want the hassle of getting stuck on hold to secure an appointment. The opportunity to make an appointment at any time from anywhere without ever having to call holds enormous appeal for both new and existing patients.

    Improves the Patient Experience

    There’s enough disruption these days in the lives of your patients without also adding the burden of phoning in to your office to schedule a visit. During the pandemic, nearly six in 10 patients said they would like to have more online access to their providers— and they ranked online scheduling as the most important online service. They certainly don’t want to get stuck on hold or be transferred several times when they need a care visit. Online scheduling supports a more streamlined and satisfying patient experience that doesn’t involve phone calls or having to speak to someone in real time.

     

    Benefits of Effective Online Scheduling

    Schedule More Appointments

    An online scheduling tool gives you the advantage of automation to schedule more appointments than you could through only in-person and phone bookings. Using an online scheduling solution, one vision practice is able to schedule 70 percent of their appointments electronically. Online scheduling can also help you decrease no-shows and late cancellations. In one study, 72 percent of patients (and 60 percent of clinicians) said that online appointment booking solutions encourage patients to keep their appointments.

    Reduce Time Your Staff Spend on Phones

    With more appointments being booked through an online scheduling platform, your staff are freed up from time-consuming phone calls and manual scheduling tasks. If you multiply the eight minutes it takes by phone to schedule each appointment by the number of appointments your office schedules in a day, that’s a ton of staff time tied up on phones. Online scheduling frees up your staff by reducing the manual phone workload so that they can spend more time on face-to-face patient interaction and other priority tasks. You may even be able to reassign staff to other duties to create greater ROI for your practice.

    Increase Patient Retention

    With more practice switching going on these days, it’s vital that you offer patients the type of digital interaction options that make for an easier and simpler patient experience. Giving patients the option to schedule an appointment online using their smartphone or other device will lead to happier patients who give your practice higher marks on satisfaction surveys and are willing to write glowing online reviews that help you attract new patients. More satisfied patients will also be more likely to recommend friends and family to your practice.

    Increase Patient Acquisition

    Online scheduling can be a hot selling point to bring new patients through your door. It’s a competitive advantage and a way to differentiate your practice from others in the area. When trying to choose a practice, prospective patients are looking for modern communication capabilities and connectivity that simplify scheduling, provide easier access, and don’t require a phone call. Though some patients will still want to book appointments by phone, adding another digital feather to your cap will help you attract a growing number of patients who prefer technology options.

     

    Best Practices for Online Scheduling

    Choose a customizable online scheduling tool

    Select an online scheduling solution that you can customize to your practice’s scheduling processes and approach. That includes booking options for new and existing patients, by appointment type, and other key factors. You’ll also want a system that allows you to control appointment availability, time slots, and to approve booking requests. You’ll also want a tool that seamlessly integrates with your current scheduling processes and practices. Also ensure that patients can upload their insurance card information using your online scheduling tool.

    Share a link to optimize online scheduling

    Post a link to your practice website for patients to schedule online as well as on your practice’s Google Business Profile, Facebook page, and newsletters so it’s clear where to go to book an appointment online. You can also send a link via text or email so patients can request appointments at their convenience. The more places patients can access your online scheduling tool, the greater your ability to drive more scheduling online.

    Promote your patients’ ability to schedule appointments online

    To maximize use of your online scheduling tool, you’ll want to promote its convenience and ease of use in patient communications. This includes places like your practice website, newsletters, and group messages. The more awareness you generate about the feature, the more patients will use the option, reducing the phone scheduling workload on your staff. Customize your practice number’s hold message to let patients know they can self-schedule on your website for faster service.

    Send automated appointment reminders to increase confirmations and reduce no-shows

    Scheduling is the first hurdle. But you’ll also want to be sure patients who book appointments both online and traditionally confirm their appointments. Send out automated appointment reminders by text or email at a proven cadence to increase confirmations and reduce no-shows. One study found that automated reminders sent at predetermined intervals increased practices’ confirmations by 156 percent. Text or email reminders allow patients to easily respond at their convenience to either confirm or reschedule the appointment. 

     

    Key Takeaways

    • Use a customizable online scheduling tool that gives patients the ease, speed, and convenience of booking appointments online 24/7.
    • Online scheduling offers you a competitive advantage that improves patient retention while also increasing your ability to attract new patients.
    • Online scheduling helps you better meet shifting patient expectations and market demands for more digital connectivity while also saving you time by reducing the amount of time staff spend on phones.
    • Promote greater awareness about your online scheduling tool in patient communications, online business profiles, and your practice website. This will help drive more traffic to schedule online while reducing the portion of appointments scheduled by phone.

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    To learn more about how your practice can book more appointments more effectively, download the guide, “An Expert Guide to Scheduling More Appointments.”

    Download the Free Guide

    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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