Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, many industries rapidly shifted their offices from in-person to online. This extended to the world of healthcare, too. Many therapy practices were forced to shift to a primarily digital model to keep their patients and employees safe. A beginning of the patient journey in any therapy practice begins with booking an appointment, therefore there has been a rise in tools that allow patients to schedule an appointment online.
While the Covid-19 pandemic may have influenced clinics to provide online scheduling, the demand began years ago. In 2014, Accenture predicted that 2 out of 3 patients would book appointments online by 2019. This demand led therapy clinics to integrate online scheduling options for their clients. Though there has been dramatic improvement in the ability for therapy practices to implement online scheduling for their clients, there are many myths and misconceptions about the process that prevent practices from adopting the practice. In this article we address four of the most common myths about online scheduling.
Myth #1: Appointment requests are the same as self-scheduling
Many therapy practices that have websites may include a convenient way for their patients to schedule appointments: scheduling forms. However, these online forms act only as appointment requests. When a patient fills and submits one of these forms, your front office administrators are still required to contact your clients. It can be more convenient for your clinic staff, but there are still problems that can arise. For instance, it might lead to some “phone tag” if your patients miss the phone call to schedule their appointment. And even if they do remember to follow up, your staff may be too busy to return the call immediately. As a result, some of your patients might fall through the cracks.
In contrast, real-time online self-scheduling allows clients to book an appointment at their own convenience. When your patients pick an appointment slot, their selections are added automatically to your schedule. No follow-up needed!
Another option that many clinics use to decrease their front office workload is third-party scheduling tools to provide an online option to their patients to book appointments. Though it can be somewhat simpler than an online form, this type of system still does not integrate with your clinic schedule. This can lead to confusion and frustration in your office because the process of transferring from one database to another can be tedious and mistakes are inevitable.
Whether you primarily use a private digital calendar or a pen-and-paper schedule, your administrators need to enter self-scheduled appointments manually. Switching to a new scheduling solution is an easy solution to this problem. All-in-one software allows your staff an intuitive and time-saving way to schedule an appointment. Integration with other software can also reduce stress and cut out repetitive tasks.
Myth #2: No control over schedule will cause over-booking
Despite the trend toward online scheduling, many providers remain hesitant to make the transition because they think that automating their scheduling process will lead to a chaotic appointment book. However, your therapy practice can integrate online scheduling solutions without surrendering control. By switching to all-in-one software, such as PatientStudio, your clinic can customize its scheduling systems.
Your system will be intuitive for every user, even if your therapy practice has several providers and locations. The flow of scheduling in-office is easy — select the type of appointment, location, doctor or therapist, then available time slot.
The interface for patients is similar. When they book an appointment online, they will have access to view only what your clinic has available. For example, one of your therapists may take new patients only in the mornings. When prospective clients schedule their appointment, they will only see available times in the morning.
With an integrated solution, any changes to the clinic schedule sync automatically for everyone. Front office administrators will see changes in availability made by therapists or therapists will see their updated calendars when office administrators book appointments. Your practice can keep a full schedule without worrying about any potential overbooking!
Myth #3: Self-scheduling will replace staff
In the medical industry, as with many other industries, the fear of moving more digital is based on the misconception that more technology will result in fewer human employees. Believe it or not, this has been a fear of people since the industrial revolution, and it doesn’t seem to be decreasing, but now as it was then it is mostly unfounded. Your front office staff is essential to the operation of your therapy practice day to day, and while online scheduling will certainly make their lives easier it will not eliminate their positions.
Front office administrators spend hours on the phone to schedule appointments. With online forms, some of the time they dedicate is reduced. However, they are still required to contact each patient that requests an appointment. Real-time scheduling frees up the hours that front office staff members spend on the phone, allowing them to perform other (often more important) tasks.
While some clinics may hire receptionists, self-scheduling will not replace their roles. Instead, they can assist with patient flow. Administrative staff have the time to manage patient records, interface with incoming and outgoing clients, or function as part of the revenue management team to ensure more efficient billing. Overall, patient scheduling is a tedious task that does not require a high degree of skill, and allowing your staff to perform tasks that are more challenging and beneficial to the practice is better for both employee and practice owner.
Myth #4: Patients won’t use self-scheduling
Clients are more likely to remain with providers because of digital features such as online scheduling. Real-time self-scheduling allows your patients to book an appointment at any time—even after hours! Research shows that more than 34% of appointments booked online are after business hours. This convenience allows your therapy practice to maintain a full schedule.
With online scheduling, your therapy practice can attract new clients. Healthgrades states that about 40% of patients would switch providers for the convenience of real-time online scheduling.
As technology advances, it is often difficult to change an existing system that works for a new process that may be tough to learn or implement. Over the last couple of years, since Covid, many people (including those in the medical field) were forced to accept changes that they may not have made otherwise. Patient scheduling is a huge part of running a successful therapy practice, and there are great options out there to digitize the process, but many practice owners have been resistant because of misconceptions about online scheduling. If you are thinking about taking the plunge into online scheduling, set up a time to demo the PatientStudio all-in-one scheduling system to see just how great it can be for your staff, your patients, and you.