A few years ago a digital movement started that fundamentally changed the way consumers interact with businesses.
Today, having an online scheduling system isn’t only helpful but expected. Just like it is vital for consumers in industries like restaurants, patients are also hoping to interact with their care providers on the go.
However, it can be a significant investment to do just because “everyone else is doing it.”
This article explores five specific reasons why enabling patients to schedule appointments through their phones (or your website) is vital for patient retention and overall satisfaction.
Online Scheduling in Healthcare: Why Now?
This technology has been around for a long time. You might have seen different versions of this type of software but never got impressive enough results to make you stick with it.
Still, nowadays, online scheduling in healthcare is becoming a norm for professionals.
There are three main reasons for this:
- There’s a natural evolution for this technology. Like any other, there is less friction in industries like restaurants and concerts. For these industries, consumers rapidly adapted to online scheduling because of the low amount of information and risks for consumers.
However, ordering a pizza online isn’t the same as communicating with a healthcare provider. Given privacy concerns, people have been more reticent to adopt convenience when personal health information is in the mix. Add to that the fact that many patients seeking medical help may be under additional stress, and the convenience of a ‘contactless’ approach was overridden by the need to speak with someone they trust.
Over the past several years, huge strides have been made in improving consumer trust in regards to how companies handle privacy. Today, people are far more comfortable communicating with their healthcare providers online – a trend that gained even greater traction as the pandemic necessitated both patients and practitioners to adopt telehealth and other technology tools.
- Practices are now 100% set up with their EHR. This allows them to finally concentrate on other pieces of software that integrate with all the technologies they’re using.
- More competition. Patients – just like general consumers – have more power than ever. They have high standards when picking a healthcare provider or private practitioner. This means that the focus is not only on the level of care but also on the overall quality of the experience, including scheduling appointments.
With that being said, there are several different ways your online scheduling software impacts your patient retention beyond just leveling the playing field.
5 Ways Having an Online Scheduling System Increases Patient Retention
1. Improved Patient Experience
The first barrier when scheduling a dental or medical appointment is logistics.
Few people prefer to make a phone call anymore. This is something the rise and popularity of messaging platforms have shown us time and time again.
The worst part of scheduling is how complicated and time-consuming it can be. From the long wait-by-the-phone time, having to listen to a list of available dates and hours – which somehow never fit your schedule just right – and the anxiety it produces, simply calling your healthcare provider can be a hurdle.
The same is true for texts and emails. The back and forth just complicates things.
However, with online scheduling software, patients can schedule an appointment with the right professional from their cell phone or laptop without any delay.
What’s more, they can reschedule appointments hassle-free—lowering your no-show rate and making their experience more positive.
Note: Providing patients with the option to schedule appointments even after office hours can help you acquire new patients that may not be able to call during standard working hours.
2. It Allows for Same-Day Appointments
An additional benefit you can provide to your existing customers is scheduling appointments when spaces are available the same day.
NexHealth’s online appointment scheduling allows users to schedule appointments in real-time. If another patient re-schedules and the appointment time is now available, other patients can schedule their visit for that time. Many patients are used to waiting days, if not weeks, for an appointment with their healthcare provider. This is not only frustrating, but can lead to poorer healthcare outcomes, depending on the type of health issue they’re seeking treatment for.
3. More Time for Engaging with Patients
Many software providers say that online scheduling will save you hours of staff work because patients don’t need to call to make an appointment.
Online scheduling will decrease the number of calls your staff makes related to appointment setting, reminders and recalls, freeing up their time to engage with patients who are in the office.
For many people, visiting a dental or medical office can be stressful, especially if they’re sick or experiencing a health issue. These patients want reassurance and guidance during their visit – not just from their dentist or physician, but also from the other staff members they interact with.
With less ‘busy work’, staff can focus more attention on engaging with patients – from answering their questions, to reviewing their treatment plans. Ensuring that they have an excellent experience throughout their experience leaves a lasting, positive impression and helps to build greater trust.
4. Online Scheduling is a Deal Breaker for Patients
There’s a significant demand for online scheduling services, and for some patients, it can be the one factor that makes them choose one healthcare practice over another.
A study showed that:
“When given a choice between physicians with similar experience, proximity, availability, and patient satisfaction ratings, the vast majority of consumers (81% for PCPs, and 77% for specialists) choose the physician who provides online scheduling.”
Note: we listed the main reasons why patients love online booking. Number 4 won’t be what you expected.
5. Integrate Other Software Tools to Improve the Patient-Practitioner Relationship
Trust and communication are the pillars of customer satisfaction, and they also apply to the health industry.
Online scheduling is only one part of your suite.
Software like NexHealth provides you with more power to keep patients and practitioners connected, like a HIPAA-compliant messaging app.
This platform allows you to share instructions, documents, answer questions from your patients, and even birthday messages.
Combine this level of communication with automatic appointment reminders, patient recall campaigns to re-engage existing patients, and patient feedback loops to nurture the trust with your patients further, and you’ll have a winning patient retention formula.
Healthcare technology can’t replace the relationships you’ve built with your patients, or the expert care you provide – but it does make it easier for patients to engage with you, and take greater responsibility for their health.
If you need help choosing the right software for your practice, we wrote a comprehensive guide on how to choose the right telehealth software for your practice.