How Easy Does Your Practice Make It For Someone to Be Your Patient? It May be Time to Open Your Virtual Doors Through Online Scheduling.
I don’t have to tell you the role that convenience plays in our world. You get it - just think about the last time you paid your bills or bought something online. I’m betting there’s a really good chance you did those things without ever interacting with an actual person. And, if you did, it was probably via online chat or only if you encountered a technical issue.
Online Scheduling as a Tool for Dental Practice Growth
If you’re like me, you want to be able to do things like shopping and scheduling appointments on your own time, when it's convenient for you. I’d much rather jump onto Amazon and buy something than get in the car and drive to a brick-and-mortar store. It might be a personality flaw in my case but it’s true (and, friendly service people aside, I admit I didn’t care for most aspects of in-person shopping even pre-COVID). Like so many others, I prioritize my schedule to make the most of the time I have. And, occasionally, I like to do things at 2am when I can’t sleep and stores are closed. It’s just how I am.
I’m sure you’ve already guessed where this is heading. We all desire convenience in our lives and patients are beginning to expect the same thing from dental practices. So how can you immediately provide more convenience to your patients (drum roll please)? Online scheduling (hold for applause).
Your Virtual Practice - Your First Impression for Prospective Patients
What do your patients see when they visit your practice online? Most dental practice websites have a section to showcase your practice, the staff, services offered, and some method of contacting you. For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume a prospective patient actually makes it to your website, likes what they see and wants to schedule an appointment. How many hoops will they have to jump through to make that happen?
Do patients have to call you? What about phone calls after hours? When someone does call, how often do calls get placed on hold while your staff tends to another phone call? Do you request that patients complete an online form and have them wait to be contacted? Maybe you list an email address to send a request to?
Chances are, many patients stop there (if they've made it that far). I like to think of these situations I’ve mentioned as invisible barriers that keep customers and/or your patients from making a commitment. People are getting more conditioned to look for the path of least resistance. Again, think about your own online habits and behavior. Do you ever talk yourself out of calling a company because you don’t have time or it’s after hours? Do you expect to submit a form and never get a response? What about sending an email? Do those sometimes bounce back or, much like an online form, never get a response?
To be clear, having multiple ways to contact your practice is a good thing, so don’t start removing your email address, phone number and contact forms from your website. I only mention those things to illustrate the point of this discussion - that, for scheduling appointments, wouldn’t a way for patients to see exactly when you are available and immediately book an appointment when they are on your website and ready to commit be more convenient?
Growing Your Patient Base
I think we’ve established that the majority of us are creatures that desire convenience and simplicity. Let’s talk about that new patient again visiting your website. In all likelihood, that prospective patient has been to multiple websites for several practices in your area. Having a great looking website with tons of helpful information is a great way to get their attention and the patient has narrowed their decision to a couple of options. So which practice gets the patient?
Another practice in your area requests a phone call or email to schedule an appointment but your practice has a “Schedule Your Appointment” button. Once the button is clicked, the patient is presented with open appointment times where they can easily compare your availability to their own, complete the requested patient details and confirm their appointment. The patient receives a confirmation email and has checked one more task off their personal to-do list before the other practice in your area even reads the email requesting appointment availability.
Patients & Practices Know Specialty, Convenience Doesn’t
I’ve been a dental patient my entire life, like most people have. Unlike most people, I’ve spent a large chunk of my career discerning the intricacies of dental specialties, it’s part of what I do as a marketer. In order to do my job effectively, I need to be able to speak specifically to what makes your practice unique. Convenience, on the other hand, speaks the same language to all of us.
Patients are patients, whether they are getting a root canal, an inlay or any other type of procedure. And, the convenience that comes with online scheduling is the same at a general practice as it is at an OMS or Ortho practice. The only difference may be the person doing the scheduling.
Look at it this way - would you rather refer a patient to an office where you or your staff spend time playing phone tag to get your patient scheduled OR refer to a practice where your staff schedules the appointment online and receives a confirmation immediately?
Referring practices can simply use online scheduling to book appointments with your specialty practice, saving their own staff from making dozens of phone calls each day and preventing your specialty practice from receiving them. It’s a win-win wrapped in a bow of efficiency for all.
A Look at Online Scheduling and New Patient Numbers
At Flex, we have two points-of-view for every solution we design and both are equally important. First, we talk to practices so that we understand how a specific feature will improve workflow, efficiency and positively contribute to the growth of your practice. Second, we look at how we can help you improve the patient experience. After all, we are all patients at some point, right?
As the developer of FlexSchedule, our online scheduling platform for Open Dental, we have some insight as to how these types of solutions can positively impact both the efficiency of your practice and bring in new patients. Our FlexSchedule users have seen large increases in new patients booking appointments online.
FlexSchedule, our online scheduling system, launched in 2020. With roughly a year of FlexSchedule experience now under our collective belts, we started working with our clients to determine how much impact online scheduling has had on new patient recruitment.
The average number of new patients added by each practice via FlexSchedule per year was 144.
That’s 144 people that need cleanings, crowns, whitening, and a bunch of other procedures that you would be happy to provide. And, they all booked online. What would 144 new patients be worth to your practice?
So, think about your website, your practice and how easy you make it to become your patient. Offering a convenient online scheduling option like FlexSchedule can help your staff save time and potentially bring more patients through your virtual (and physical) doors.
Ready to learn more?
If you’re an Open Dental user looking for a patient communication solution, please ask for opinions of our solution from other Open Dental practices. We pride ourselves on creating Flex fans for life. The words of our customers are our best reference and we think you’ll like what you find.
Our team members are all what we affectionately call “Flex-perts” and make it a priority to address all requests quickly and knowledgeably. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please click the button below and submit your questions online. A member of our team will connect with you shortly and help you understand the value that Flex can bring to your practice and your patients.