4 questions to ask before buying online scheduling
Your patients do everything online. They can book flights, get rides, and even earn a degree without leaving the soft comfortable glow of their phones and laptops. So if your practice doesn’t offer a way to get a dentist appointment online, a new patient may pass you up for a practice that appeals to their sense of convenience.
Online scheduling is obviously important, but not all online scheduling platforms are created equal. How can you know which is right for your practice? Here are 4 things you should know before choosing.
1. Is it really scheduling, or merely requesting?
This is #1 for a reason. Most companies that offer “online scheduling” only go halfway to a scheduled appointment. They allow patients to request a timeslot, but that’s all. Your front desk still has to confirm the appointment. What if there is a conflict? What if two people request the same time slot over the weekend? Then your staff has to reach out and play phone tag until a consensus is reached. It’s inefficient - it takes time away from your patients and your front desk.
Real online scheduling integrates with your practice management system, which means you set certain times as available, and once a patient requests an appointment, they get that appointment. They don’t need to call. Your front desk doesn’t need to confirm (even though they still can). Real online scheduling is the difference between a fully booked appointment, and an email to your front desk.
2. How many places can patients schedule from?
The average appointment scheduling service puts a button on your website, and that’s a great start. It’s much better than having no online scheduling at all (if it really is online scheduling and not just a disguised contact form). But if your website is the only place the scheduling button lives, a lot of money is being left on the table.
Most patients don’t know your website URL off the top of their heads, so their journey to you doesn’t start at your website. Most often they’ll find you through Google, or an insurance directory. The best online scheduling services put buttons on those sites too, which means more routes for patients to end up in your chair. Convenience is the name of the game, and that’s especially true if a patient is comparison shopping.
3. How much manual maintenance will you have to do?
The ideal answer to this is “absolutely none.” And while we’re not quite there yet, we’re getting pretty close. Even the best online scheduling systems require some front-loaded setup work. But that should be all. After setting your schedule - availability, hours, appointment types, operatories, etc. - you shouldn’t have to touch your scheduling system except for when you want to make changes.
If a scheduling system requires you to manually confirm each appointment by entering requests into your practice management system one by one, it’s not an efficient use of your staff’s time (and it’s not really online scheduling either).
4. Does it work in real time?
When a patient clicks that final button, how long does it take before your practice can confirm that the slot is theirs? When scheduling is integrated with your practice management system, that appointment is theirs instantly, as soon as the request is received. With a manual request system, it can take hours, even days, for an appointment to be confirmed. That lag can really ruin a patient’s day, and it can complicate yours, too. Double bookings clog up your front desk, and it doesn’t make a great first impression when a patient who thought they had an appointment, doesn’t.
Before you buy any online scheduling service, ask their representative these questions. Of course, LocalMed’s answers are “it’s really scheduling, a ton, almost zero, and yes.” But if you want to learn more, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 888 (203) 7531.