July 11, 2013 at 2:08 pm #4537pathwaysoftwareParticipant
These days you can book almost anything online and increasingly clients are expecting to be able to do the same when they go to their local PT.
In the UK many clients have started using the NHS’s “Choose & Book” Service to schedule appointments in Acute care. Latest figures suggest that more than 10 million appointments are now booked via “Choose & Book” with a significant proportion of them being booked online.
As a result of “Choose & book” and similar initiatives around the world many clients have become familiar with the concept of online booking and in many cases they expect the same capabilities to be available in the private sector.
- To be able to accept online bookings it’s preferable that you have your own website
- Don’t be tempted to try and get someone to develop your website and booking engine themselves – there are lots of pre-built booking engines out there that mean that you don’t need to re-invent the wheel – it will also be expensive!
- If you decide to go down the route of accepting online bookings you need to make sure that it doesn’t create more admin headaches for you than accepting bookings via the phone
- If possible, look for solutions that integrate with whatever systems or processes you are already using to run your practice, or look for an integrated solution that does both online bookings and practice management
- To minimise the possibility of increased “no shows” you should make sure that your chosen solution supports SMS/Email reminders and where possible includes some sort of mechanism that validates the client’s identity
- A number of solutions provide mechanisms for online payment which is great if you are offering one-off treatments, but in cases where the duration of the treatment is unknown until initial assessment it might be less appropriate
- You should probably give some thought to who you want to book online and what they can book. Some practices only offer follow-up treatments online and require prospective new clients to phone in. This has the benefit of allowing you to pre-screen the client before they book and assuming you have a New:Follow-Up Ratio > 1 it shouldn’t be too time consuming
- Using online booking there is the opportunity automate certain tasks including the acceptance of booking terms and provision of directions to your practice or clinic
- You’re able to take bookings 24*7
- Time spent answering the phone doesn’t eat into your client-facing time
- You may be able to eradicate all reception/admin related costs
- Taking online bookings will differentiate you from your competitors
- It provides added convenience for your clients
- By opening up your availability to online booking you will probably have less control of your diary. This can be mitigated by not allowing online bookings within a certain number of days of the current day but this could mean missing out on urgent appointments that might fill your schedule and increase your income.
- It may lead to an increase in “no shows” unless appropriate identity validation is put in place
- There will be less or no opportunity for pre-consultation. In many cases this may not be a problem but depending on your circumstances or your degree of specialisation it may be an issue
In most situations the case for online booking is a good one:
- Clients are generally accustomed to booking online;
- the costs of implementing online booking have fallen dramatically;
- the operational savings can be significant;
- its more convenient for your clients
As long as it suits you and the type of treatment you offer it’s probably worthwhile sticking your toe in the water.
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