Rehab therapy practices are always looking for ways to optimize their workflows (or at least, they should be.) And while there’s no shortage of options for improving front office processes, what about an option that gets more patients in the door and helps enhance the patient experience?
If your physical therapy scheduling is still centered around phone calls, it’s time to make the switch to online scheduling. An online scheduling system is a simple and straightforward solution that helps address the ongoing problem of administrative burden, which is dragging down productivity for physical therapists. Beyond that, it’s simply a better way to go about scheduling patients in an online world. Here are a few reasons you should consider making appointment scheduling software a part of your practice in 2023.
1. Scheduling appointments online is more convenient for patients.
If you’ve ever scheduled an appointment in your personal life, you know that it’s not exactly convenient to drop what you’re doing to call that business during business hours—particularly when you’re plenty busy with your own job. Chances are patients feel the same way about your practice if you’re still stuck on over-the-phone scheduling.
With online scheduling, physical therapy patients can visit your website to find an appointment at their own convenience, at any time of day. Better yet, online scheduling allows you to link to your scheduling tool in a multitude of places—your digital ads, social media posts, educational content, and even in physical media like flyers using a QR code.
If you really want to tailor your scheduling for patient ease and comfort, you can adopt customizable scheduling tools to build a portal that gives patients more information about your practice and providers and allows them to choose the type of appointment and location that works best for them (if you’re a multi-location practice).
Online appointment scheduling is the first step in an improved patient experience.
Giving patients what they want is a key ingredient in creating an optimal patient experience—and patients want to schedule appointments online. According to WebPT and Clinicient’s Patient Experience Report, 61% of patients prefer to schedule appointments online when not scheduling in person. Moreover, making it easy for patients to find an appointment that works at their convenience is part of opening the digital front door and reducing the pain points that make patients not want to return—if they even show up at all. (Plus, it gives front office staff more time to focus on the patients that are in the clinic, something I’ll discuss more in a moment.)
It’s a competitive advantage over other clinics.
Providing patients with an easier scheduling experience can also give you a leg up on other rehab clinics that aren’t following suit. People searching for nearby rehab therapists are more likely to schedule an appointment at your clinic if it’s convenient—especially if others in your area are still operating over the phone. How much more likely? According to a study from GetApp, 95% of patients would choose a healthcare provider that offers online scheduling over one that doesn’t. If you can be an early adopter (or at least keep pace with your competition), you can reap the benefits of greater patient volume.
2. Appointment scheduling software saves your staff time and effort.
Maybe the biggest beneficiary of online scheduling is your overtaxed front office staff, who are already juggling a mountain of responsibilities. In our 2022 State of Rehab Therapy report, clerical staff saw the second-most turnover and cited the increasing fear of burnout as their second-biggest concern about the future of rehab therapy. Fortunately, it’s easy to start reducing that workload by introducing more automation into your practice—starting with online scheduling.
While you can still do some scheduling over the phone for patients who want the personal touch, you should look to online booking to handle most of your appointment scheduling. Online scheduling allows your staff to manage and confirm requests from a dashboard with a few clicks rather than countless phone calls. And you can collect the pertinent patient information you need upfront and get ahead of the game with benefits verification—saving even more time. With technology making scheduling that much easier, why not free up your staff to focus more on customer service and creating the optimal patient experience for patients in your waiting room?
3. Online scheduling can help avoid no-shows—and fill in gaps in your schedule.
No-shows are an unfortunate reality in rehab therapy—but that doesn’t mean you can cut down on the number of unfilled appointments in a given week. One plus of online scheduling is the ability to easily confirm appointments with patients and to send follow-on reminders periodically to ensure they do not forget their next appointment. According to one study, appointment reminders via text can reduce no-show rates by a whopping 38%.
And for those no-shows that you just can’t avoid, online scheduling can make it easier to fill those spots on the fly. Online scheduling platforms make it easier to maintain a waitlist with patients that can easily slot into the openings on your calendar or to book same-day appointments (which, as another study found, can reduce your no-show rate.)
4. You’ll collect better data on where patients are coming from.
Metrics are the key to any successful practice, and while you’re hopefully already collecting patient outcomes, it’s also useful to know how patients are finding you online. The right online scheduling software will be able to collect all the data you’re looking for to see where your patients are originating from on the internet—whether that’s your paid digital ads, social media posts, blog posts, or just your website’s homepage. It might not seem like a big deal, but understanding where most of your patients are coming from online allows you to focus more resources on what’s working—and to rethink the avenues that aren’t drawing in new patients.
Better still, you can dig even deeper to see just how many people are converting on your page (which is to say, completing an appointment request), how many are dropping off, and at what point. If there’s a spot in your scheduling form that is causing too many people to throw in the towel and look elsewhere for a rehab therapist, you can identify where that point of friction lies and determine how to make your forms easier to complete.
Online scheduling isn’t just about improving the patient experience and meeting customer expectations in 2023—it’s what every rehab therapy clinic needs to ease the burden on their front office staff so that they can spend more time talking with patients in the office, not over the phone. And if you want to make the switch to online scheduling even easier, check out WebPT’s Online Scheduling tool.