6 Tips for Scheduling Appointments with Your PatientsPosted: October 14, 2021 - By Health Dev
An important aspect of keeping a medical practice profitable is the ability to schedule appointments and dedicate specific blocks of time to patients. Although simple in principle, appointment scheduling can become a heavy administrative burden if not handled correctly.
Instead of dedicating valuable resources to appointment management, you can implement technology that supports online booking, appointment reminders, and other features. That way – you can improve your efficiency and deliver a more convenient better quality experience to those you serve.
1. Offer Online Booking to Streamline Appointment Scheduling
If you are an appointment-centric practice, one of the best strategies you can implement is an online scheduling system. Access to online booking will allow your patients to request appointment times through your website, which your staff can review and confirm with a few clicks. Patients can secure the times they want with ease and don’t need to wait for your open hours or place a phone call to get on your schedule.
For patients, this approach makes it effortless to seek appointments any time — days, nights, or weekends — and means they’ll be less likely to forget about visits. Online booking shifts much of the work of appointment scheduling away from your team and can help eliminate costly no-shows. What this means is that you have optimized your office’s efficiency with the added benefit of reducing your expenses.
2. Distribute Appointment Reminders
Once you’ve started implementing online appointment scheduling, you can take a critical next step and implement an appointment reminder system. You can completely eliminate the labor-intensive task of making calls the day before each appointment. Instead, set up a reminder sequence that alerts patients about upcoming visits at specific intervals. For many organizations, reminders sent one week ahead of time along with day before and day of reminders is a reasonable practice.
To achieve the best results, use a multi-channel approach that delivers reminders via email, text, and phone. With all potential communication options covered, you’ll be more likely to reach patients through one or more channels and help ensure each person shows up on time for their scheduled appointment.
3. Make It Easy to Confirm, Cancel, and Change Appointments
With a proactive appointment reminder approach, you can better keep track of your daily schedule and reduce downtime caused by unexpected no-shows. You can also use your reminders as tools to let people confirm, cancel, or change appointments with ease. If you send out a text or email, include links that people can click to confirm or cancel, along with a link to reschedule if they need to select a different time.
How does this approach benefit you? When a cancellation occurs, it’s common for people to skip the visit altogether instead of rescheduling — especially if there is significant extra effort required to make a change on their end. By making this process seamless and effortless, you can prevent a cancellation from turning into a defection and improve client retention.
4. Send Out Emails with a Clear Call to Action
Technology can also empower you to reach out proactively to your client base to keep your schedule full. One of the best ways to stay in touch with patients is through email. No matter your type of medical practice, you can use email to send out reminders, promotions, or offers and encourage patients to book time with you.
For a medical practice, this process can involve sending out reminders about routine check-ups or seasonal care needs to motivate patients to schedule a visit with a healthcare provider. A salon or spa may send out promotions before vacation season or the holidays to encourage patients to look and feel their best during these special times of the year.
Another strategy that works for any business is to advertise open appointments to patients on a waiting list. This practice lets you make the most of last minute cancellations while letting patients get an appointment time earlier than they anticipated.
While informational emails can always benefit your audience, you want to include clear calls to action that motivate patients to take the next step. You can highlight links to your appointment scheduling system in your email to get recipients to book time on your calendar directly from the email.
5. Ask for Referrals
With the right technology, it’s effortless to automate referral requests and keep growing your clientele. Send emails or texts to current patients and ask them to recommend your practice to friends, family, or colleagues.
Often, practices offer some reward to patients who make referrals. For example, you can offer discounts, gift cards, or valuable branded promotional items that patients can claim after the person they referred attends a first appointment.
If you’d prefer to provide a higher-ticket item — like sought-after technology or a family vacation package — enter the names of patients who refer others into a drawing. Make each referral equal to one entry to give more chances to win to people who share positive endorsements with others and bring more business to you.
6. Schedule Appointments More Effectively
With the many tasks you have on your plate each day, you may not feel that appointment scheduling is a top priority. However, for many people, the first encounter they have with your practice is when they book an appointment. If the process is cumbersome or takes too much time, they can walk away with a negative impression from the start. It can be difficult to rebuild trust after a subpar initial encounter.
Plus, inefficient appointment management can take a toll on your team and diminish your office efficiency. If you use outdated appointment scheduling practices, your staff members can spend between five and ten minutes booking each visit. Multiply that time by the number of appointments you need to book each day to be successful. Couldn’t that time and effort be put to better use?
Fortunately, you can keep your calendar full of appointments and streamline your operations with today’s advanced technology. Give patients options to self-schedule online and automate the practice of confirming, canceling, and rescheduling appointments.
Send out multi-channel appointment reminders to ensure your schedule says up-to-date while reducing costly no-shows and last minute cancellations. And use technology to request referrals and send out annual and seasonal reminders or promotions to remind patients to reengage with you.
Without question, streamlining appointment management is one of the best steps you can take to improve your practice. By following proven practices and implementing advanced technology, you can transform your operations, fuel revenue growth, and position your practice for ongoing success.