Article

BUSINESS: SOCIAL MEDIA

SCHEDULE ONLINE

AUTOMATE THE SCHEDULING PROCESS FOR YOUR PATIENTS AND YOUR PRACTICE

OPTOMETRISTS CAN be slow to change. We are often guilty of getting too comfortable with our habitual way of doing things. One area, in particular, is scheduling. And, it is likely costing us!

If you are still requiring patients to call to book appointments, you are losing patients, and you are missing out on acquiring new ones. Almost one-third of consumers see physicians that offer online appointment scheduling as more appealing, and note that this offering would increase their likelihood of making an appointment.

In addition, “consumers who use online scheduling tend to be younger, better educated and schedule more appointments for themselves and others,” according to research provided by Healthgrades, a health care review website.

I urge all optometric practices to get some form of an online scheduling tool to allow your patients to make appointments using their computers and/or smartphones. Here are my top three reasons:

1 THEY REDUCE NO-SHOWS

In the past, a phone call was made, an appointment was scheduled and, if you were lucky, the patient scribbled it on the closest piece of paper, increasing the likelihood of him or her showing up.

However, online scheduling software sends the patient a confirmation of the appointment, oftentimes integrating a calendar link. It can be done with both a text message and an email. Many online schedulers also have a voice message option. And after the initial confirmation, automatic reminders kick in.

Reminders make it nearly impossible for a patient to “forget,” reducing no-shows and minimizing lost income. Just how much does a no show hurt your office? If you could prevent just one no-show each day, you would prevent thousands of dollars in missed income. For example, if each no show resulted in $100 of missed net income, and you had one no-show each day of a five-day week for a year, you would have missed out on about $25,000!

2 THEY INCREASE CAPTURE RATE

Patients lead busy lives and, oftentimes, handle their “to do” lists before and after work. Meaning, they are looking to schedule an appointment outside business hours. If they are unable to make an appointment because your office is closed, you might just frustrate and, ultimately, lose them. You need to be easy to do business with. Giving your patients the ability to make an appointment 24/7/365, does this.

3 THEY IMPROVE OFFICE EFFICIENCY

Automating the appointment-making process reduces time spent on this task by your staff.

Some offices have a dedicated staff member who primarily does the scheduling. I’ve seen some offices spend a couple hours a day creating reminders, all the while having to stop what they are doing to answer the phone to schedule an appointment.

Implementing an online scheduler can free up that staff time. I know of some practices that have been able to keep staffing to a minimum because they have mastered automating tasks, such as scheduling.

POSITIVE CHANGE

A 2014 study found that 38% of medical appointments will be self-scheduled by 2019, according to Accenture, a consulting and technology firm. By providing patients with the option to schedule online, you allow them to book at times convenient to them and help them to remember their appointments, all the while allowing your practice to increase efficiency, reduce cost and improve profits. These are positive changes, all around. OM

Online Scheduling

As O.D.s, there are several programs that allow you to offer online scheduling:

Check whether this is a feature available through your EHR system!