In a word, it’s all about convenience.
Patients want to schedule their own medical and dental appointments. But don’t just take our word for it.
A recent consumer study by Accenture confirmed that patients absolutely prefer to schedule their own appointments:
- 77% indicated this would be their preference if offered by their dentist vs. calling to schedule an appointment.
- 70% of patients are more likely to choose a provider that offers the ability to book, change, or cancel their appointments online.
- 40% of all appointments are scheduled after hours or on weekends.
What Is Online Scheduling?
Are you offering true online appointment scheduling to your patients? If so, is this something you are promoting in all your marketing activities? In a competitive field like dentistry, standing out is so critical to your success.
To be clear, “true online scheduling” is when a patient can visit your website or click on a link that is emailed or texted to them and then, without ever calling or communicating with someone in your practice, find and schedule an appointment at a time convenient for them.
This is very different from requesting an appointment. Patients are not fans of that method. It’s not much different from being forced to call during office hours and 1., Hope someone will answer and 2., Hope there’s an opening that works for your schedule.
Letting the patient schedule their own appointment – SO MUCH BETTER.
Here’s a great example of how online scheduling became the only thing a dentist promoted in his marketing. Dr. Ahmed had been practicing in a hospital for seven years before starting his own practice in 2016. When the tech industry of San Francisco and Silicon Valley started spilling into Oakland, he picked the rapidly gentrifying area specifically for its growth. And though that might sound ideal, the increase in population also brought competition.
“I think, nationwide, the statistic is something like 1 dentist for every 2000 eligible adults,” said Dr. Ahmed. “In our case, it was 1 dentist for every 250. All our consultants said ‘what are you doing? This won’t work.’ But I had a wife and 2 kids. I needed to put food on the table. This had to work.”
Make Things Easier For Your Patients
So, he followed the age-old #1 rule of marketing: know your audience. “Our demographic is very tech-savvy, and the traditional medical and dental models are archaic,” Dr. Ahmed said. “Nobody wants to talk to anybody. They want to go online or text – to do things digitally. I knew I had to make it easy for people to schedule appointments online. Request forms wouldn’t cut it; I wanted something that worked just like booking a flight or ordering a pizza. It’s all about removing barriers to entry. I couldn’t not offer something like that.”
At first, Dr. Ahmed built his own system for online scheduling, and it worked quite well. But it also had limitations, especially when it came to offering different types of appointments. So, Dr. Ahmed searched for a more robust solution and discovered LocalMed by Dental Intelligence, the leader in real-time online scheduling. “The strength of LocalMed is being able to make all kinds of appointments,” he shared. “If it’s Friday and I see Monday is falling apart, I can just turn on LocalMed and I know it’ll be filled. It’s happened multiple times. A day before everything falls apart, I turn on LocalMed, and our schedule will be filled the next day. I’d say 75% of new patients come through them. It’s amazing, and I don’t have to worry about missing calls. I can’t praise it enough, really.”
Where Do I Begin?
So, with all this new information, what should you do now? Here are two things to get you started.
First, offer true online scheduling to your customers. Your current patients want to schedule online. Prospective patients want to schedule online. You can add a link on your web page, on social media, and by text to patients. You can even include a link in Google and with insurance providers. Skip right past the frustrating “Request Appointment” tool that some practices offer and let your patients find and schedule appointments anytime, anywhere. Make life easier for them (and for your front desk!)
Second, promote that patients can schedule online. Include it in all your marketing. Mention it in your social media posts. Train your team to tell patients they can schedule online whenever they call to schedule appointments. Text them a link to schedule in appointment confirmations. Make this a central feature of how your practice makes things better for your patients, including encouraging patients to include it in their reviews on Google and social media.
One thing we hear so often from dental practices is how frustrating it can be to schedule patients and how hard it is to get them to reschedule when they cancel. They also mention the challenge of getting patients to schedule their next appointment before they leave the practice. If any of these feel familiar, online scheduling can help solve all of these problems.
Thousands of practices are using online scheduling to provide better care to their patients. For example, a group practice we work with in Minnesota recently shared that in just the past three months, patients have scheduled 270 appointments online, and over 600 appointments in the past six months. Imagine how offering this to patients would make life easier for them. We all live in a digital world and want businesses we have relationships with to offer ways of connecting with them that are easy and efficient.
Online Scheduling: Happy Patients, Happy Practice
- Online scheduling is here, and it works. Appointment requests are just another way of making it harder for patients to come and receive the care they need. Avoid them.
- Start offering online scheduling. Make it easy for your patients.
- Tell everyone you offer this solution. Include it in all of your marketing. Mention it when you are talking to patients on the phone.
Practicing dentistry right now is so exciting! There are so many new ways to care for and connect with your patients. Make online scheduling part of how you practice, and watch what happens.
If you would like to learn more about how LocalMed Online Scheduling can help your practice add new patients, visit us today to schedule your free demo. We’d love to help you!