Online appointment scheduling automation for your practice.

By Nitin Chhoda, PT, DPT

The ability to schedule appointments quickly and effortlessly is a convenience for patients. When this can be done online, it can be done anytime and from anywhere. A web-based calendar can essentially interact with patients at their convenience and demonstrate a real-time appointment. This capability is an added benefit for your practice, since it puts the patient in control of the first step in the care process. It can make the practice more modern and streamlined.

When the appointment scheduling experience is personalized and online, it can reduce the workload on the front desk staff. There is no need to keep patients on hold and no need for patient callbacks to schedule or confirm appointments. The appointment scheduling experience can be customized based on the needs and the availability of the patient.

For example, if a patient wants an appointment with a physical therapist at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, then the system can display if the therapist is available that day and time. If the therapist is unavailable, it will display the availability of other clinicians.

Online appointment scheduling is not a new concept in health care. It has the potential to gain mass acceptance over time, especially with larger clinics with multiple disciplines, serving patients who have access to and affinity toward the use of web-based technology.

The potential is significant, because scheduling an appointment can be an uncomfortable experience for patients. This is ironic, considering it is the first (and most important) step that a patient takes during the start of their relationship with your practice.

The creation of an online appointment funnel, with a specific set of rules, can automate the scheduling process.

For example, a patient visits your website and clicks on the “schedule your appointment button.”

Your website now displays available time slots for different clinicians. The patient selects a convenient date and time, schedules an appointment, and receives an email confirmation. The patient’s experience (including time spent, options selected, browser characteristics, and approximate location) can be analyzed throughout the online funnel and immediate surveys can be conducted to record their feedback.

Patients can schedule appointments from their computer or smart phones at any time. The convenience of being able to schedule an appointment on Saturday night is great for the patient looking for an appointment on Monday morning.

It also opens up new possibilities for growth in your practice.

For some patients, online scheduling can be a difficult and frustrating process, especially when there is fear or limited access to web-based software. All of these attributes are available in web-based tools such as www.timetrade.com, which I use to schedule consulting calls with private practice owners and clients. This tool allows me to streamline my availability and offer quick, easy appointment scheduling.

Nitin Chhoda, PT, DPT, is a private practice marketing consultant. He can be reached at nitin@referralignition.com.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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