1. Add Online Scheduling
Every day, people are using the Internet to schedule appointments with dentists, massage therapists, personal trainers, counselors, and doctors. Increasingly consumers are using their smartphones to schedule and keep track of their family’s appointments while on the go.
Even Baby Booners and older adults are moving towards being digitally connected. Approximately two-thirds of older adults are online. Around 42% of adults 65 and older now own smartphones, up from 18% in 2013. As a growing number of our patients become comfortable doing business on the Internet you’ll want to maximize the use of Internet to optimize your patient experience.
Yodle.com surveyed 6,000 American consumers and found that 40% of online bookings happen after business hours. What’s more, 25% of millennials don’t book appointments in advance, and if it can’t be done quickly using online booking they’ll go elsewhere. If you want to attract millennials to your practice having a flexible scheduling system is a must.
Online scheduling doesn’t mean you lose control over your patient schedule. You determine ahead of time what and when patients can book with you. You can control availability, review and approve requests manually and set cancellation policies.
To make sure your practice isn’t being passed over online, you should consider including an appointment page on your website. No need to panic if you can’t afford a web design agency. There are easy tools you can begin with to allow patients to make their own appointments online.
Here are 3 affordable scheduling software options to check out:
So if you don’t already offer online booking to your patients, it’s time to get ahead of the curve. Online scheduling shows patients your real-time availability, is mobile-friendly and ranks high in search results. Allowing patients to schedule, change or cancel their own appointments is a remarkable experience that’s in step with other consumer services like Amazon Prime, Uber, or AirBnB.
2. Add Text Or Email Appointment Reminders
Any personal trainer or massage therapist will tell you that sending text reminders to clients makes no-shows magically disappear. Dentists have known for years that paying staff to call patients to remind them of their appointments is a wise investment.
Patient no-shows can be a real hassle and a hidden revenue drain. Average no-show rates for medical clinics are in the 15% to 30% range. Sending text reminders to patients have been shown to decrease no-show rates nearly 60%.The most effective way to appear professional is to offer a seamless booking experience.
There are research studies that clearly show the benefits of text messages as appointment reminders. Online scheduling software like the ones mentioned above will do it automatically for you so you and your staff can spend more face time with patients.
The WebPT EMR system includes an appointment reminder feature in its Front Office Suite. Patients can be notified of upcoming appointments via email, phone or text messages automatically out of WebPT software.
People are more comfortable receiving text or email reminders from their dentists, physician offices, or even car mechanics so don’t ignore the advantages. Automated reminders about upcoming appointments will have a huge impact on your income and on your communication with patients.
The secret to appointment reminders is to spend a couple of minutes asking each patient how they want to be reminded of appointments. Simply show respect by asking their preferred method of communication; by text, email or phone. I’ve created an Email Marketing Guide to help therapists learn the latest email marketing strategies from the experts.
Before you send your first email message or text reminder to your patients, think twice. Before you do, ask your patients one simply question:
How would you prefer us to remind you of your next appointment?
3. Add A Personal Touch
We’ve talked above about utilizing technology to add a wow factor to your patient experience. You may be reluctant to add online scheduling and text appointment reminders because they seem too impersonal. You might feel as though you will lose the personal touch with patients.
It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. If done right it can turn a ho-hum experience into something remarkable. Consider the experience you might have as you book a room in a five-star hotel for your next vacation. Do like the convenience of booking your reservation online in the convenience of your own home? I know I do. It’s so much better than the old days when I’d have to call, be put on hold while I waited for the front desk to check available rooms and help guests. The experience was horrible!
Do like the experience of booking your reservation online in the convenience of your own home? I know I do. It’s so much better than the old days when I’d have to call, be put on hold while I waited for the front desk to check available rooms and help guests. That experience was horrible!
Online booking is so much better than the old days. I’d have to call, be put on hold while I waited for the front desk to check available rooms. Sometimes they would be trying to help guests while making my reservation. The experience was horrible!
Now consider this scenario. You book a room on your laptop in your living room and reserve it with a credit card. A few days prior to your reservation, you receive a welcome email from the hotel manager. They are looking forward to serving you in any way they can. You are given an email address to send any questions you might have and helpful links to local restaurants and sites.
Once you arrive at the hotel, the front desk associate warmly welcomes you and begins to create a remarkable guest experience. You have access to a concierge who is specifically trained to answer all your questions and to make your stay as pleasant as possible.
After your stay, you’re sent a thank-you email expressing the hotel’s appreciation for the opportunity to serve you. If there were any problems with your stay the manager tells you to email her and she will correct it. They tastefully inform you of other cities where they are located and include a coupon for one of their cash-pay services as a thank-you for staying with them.
The fact that you booked your reservation online and received automated emails most likely doesn’t diminish your face to face experience with the hotel staff. In fact, it probably enhances it.
I’d like for us all to think of how we might utilize technology to free up our time to add personal touches to the patient experience. Here are a couple of suggestions to get you thinking:
- Offer new patients a free phone call prior to their first appointment at a mutually convenient time. This way, you have an opportunity to build a connection with the patient and express your appreciation for them choosing your practice.
- You or your assistant may want to make it a practice to speak to every patient on the phone after an initial appointment is made online. After a recent appointment with my dentist when extensive work was done, he called my cell phone to see if I was doing okay.
- Send out personalized email messages before and after an initial appointment. You and your staff can easily add a personal touch to an automated email template. This communicates how much you value your patients and your commitment to them.
These are, of course, just suggestions how you might transform your patient experience into something remarkable.
By the way, not every patient experience has to be remarkable. If everything is remarkable, then soon, nothing is remarkable. But you must be willing to put in the work to identify key touchpoints to make a WOW. Then you must follow up with the processes or technology to make it happen.
With a little awareness of the WOW Factor, a plan and some practice you can begin to transform your patient experiences into being something patients will talk about.
Paul Potter is a physical therapist and mentor who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, who is also a therapist. They have four daughters. For more than 35 years he successfully managed his own private practice. He now shares his knowledge and experience through teaching and mentoring therapists who want to have their own practice.
He has authored On Fire: Ignite Your Passion with a Cash Therapy Practice and the Cash Practice From Scratch Course. His website PaulPotterpt.com is dedicated to helping therapists achieve professional and personal and financial freedom.
As therapists, we have tremendous opportunity to use our abilities, education, and expertise to enhance client’s lives. What a privilege? If you are in the therapy business to serve people, then my new book On Fire: Ignite Your Passion with a Cash Therapy Practice might help you. The healthcare industry has undergone so many changes lately and many therapists are overwhelmed, overworked and confused on where to turn to for help in the battle.
On Fire takes a close look at innovative therapists who are using alternative ways to deliver high-value care to their patients. Cash therapy services have emerged as a viable alternative to accepting business as usual.
If you are intrigued by the attention that cash-based practices are attracting On Fire is a great primer to help you get up to speed on the key issues and how if might impact your practice. The book is available on Amazon. If you are interested in getting your own copy join my email list and I’ll keep you up to date on the special pre-order bonuses I’m giving away.
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