Online Booking: An Efficient Way to Build Your Practice
K.C. BATEMAN, BSC, ND
It was 2006, I was 2 years into practice, and I had just expanded into a second location for the first time. I quickly realized that I needed to find a solution that allowed staff in both offices to schedule patients for me. I needed a way to share my schedule between multiple locations and multiple users. The best solution that I could find was online booking.
A Nice Surprise
Once I set up my online booking system, I gave each staff member access so they could book patients for me. Once it was working smoothly internally, I decided to make it available to the public on my website. Within hours, 2 new patients booked! These new patients were people I had never met before. They came across my website, liked what they read, and booked appointments. I knew I was on to something.
Build It and They Will Book
Set up your clinical hours in your online booking calendar and plan to be present. If something comes up, you can simply pull out your preferred device (smart phone, tablet, laptop, etc) and book the time off.
Some naturopathic doctors I have talked to think that adopting online booking means giving up control of their schedule. On the contrary, having your schedule easily accessible in the “cloud” gives you ultimate control.
I highly recommend that you require a minimum of 24 hours for cancellations. Also, do not allow patients to book appointments within 24 hours via online booking. All of the online booking systems that I have seen allow you to set up these specific parameters.
Get Your Head in the Cloud
Keeping your schedule in the cloud allows you to have multiple people accessing your schedule in multiple locations. This enables you to work more efficiently by…
• Accessing your schedule wherever you are
• Booking time off from anywhere
• Having staff book appointments on your behalf while you are away from the office or busy with patients
• Allowing staff to work remotely
• Ensuring your calendar is always backed up
Online Booking Reduces the Number of Patients That “Slip Through the Cracks”
When it comes to scheduling follow-up appointments, not all patients are able to book when leaving your office. By syncing your online booking system with your electronic medical records (EMR) system, you’re able to easily send out email reminders, inviting patients to book their next appointment online. Be sure to include a hyperlink to your online booking system in the email.
Keep it Simple
The easier it is to book, the more likely patients will use it. In order to ensure ease of use of your online booking system…
• Do not require any personal information in order to browse appointment availability
• Only require their personal information if the person wants to book an appointment
• Do not require credit card information or pre-payment in order to book an appointment online
Grow Your Practice With Your Online Presence
More and more patients are finding naturopathic doctors online, so make sure your website is easy to find. I drive traffic to my website through a number of methods including…
• Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
• Google AdWords
• Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
• Email newsletters
Call to Action
How do you convert a visitor to your website into a patient in your office? Many naturopathic doctors have limited or no conversion tools on their sites.
Online booking is an ideal conversion tool for naturopathic physicians. Once a patient finds your website, he or she can use your online booking system to book either an initial appointment or a free 15-minute consultation.
Choosing An Online Booking Provider
From 2006 to 2012, I used a generic online booking site that was not specifically designed for naturopathic doctors. It served me well for the most part, but I began searching for an alternative that allowed me to sync with my EMR system.
Since 2012, I have been using a particular EMR and practice management system that has online booking integrated into it.
Here are some important aspects to consider when seeking an online booking provider:
• Cloud-based and/or ability to sync calendar(s) to a cloud
• Integration with your EMR/practice management system
• Secure patient portal – online intake form completion and secure messaging
• Ease of use for patients
• Free trial period
K.C. Bateman, BSc, ND graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) in 2004. Prior to the attending CCNM, K.C. attended Queen’s University for pre-medical studies, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 2000. K.C. is an eclectic practitioner with a specialty in auricular medicine and biotherapeutic drainage.