Managing Online Appointments

By Max Hayward / 24 May 2022

Business director Max Hayward outlines why practitioners should use online appointments to manage their clinic and his top tips for implementing this

We’ve all been there, juggling multiple conversations, across several different apps… WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook messenger, texts, and email. As your business grows this can quickly become chaotic, absorbing a lot of your personal time, and affecting your patient rapport.

In this article I will outline what you can do to manage appointments effectively and how technology can support you to create processes to benefit both your business requirements and the experience of your patients.

Updating your software

Firstly, think about how you currently manage your appointments. Is your beloved paper diary full of crossed out names and arrows showing the rescheduling of appointments from one time to another? If so, it might be time to jump into the 21st century (although this is easier said than done!). However, with the correct guidance and a supportive software company in place, this process can be a smooth transition.

Perhaps you are using a built-in calendar that comes with your phone, such as Google or Apple calendar. This is probably your first go-to solution when removing your paper diary or just getting started in aesthetics due to it being free and it can quickly be amended when a patient makes an enquiry. However, this process can soon become just as time consuming as a paper diary because you will still need to schedule each appointment manually yourself. They also do not offer the opportunity to fully capture the patient’s details or create a link to a patient record, allowing you to access the history of each individual’s treatments.

If this sounds like you, then the first step for a cohesive aesthetic booking system would be to explore your options available with in-clinic management software. You should look for a software that is designed specifically for aesthetic practitioners with a dedicated diary. The system should be able to store all your patient records in one place and be quick to select returning patients.

But how can practitioners work even more efficiently, saving themselves time and improving their patients’ experience? The answer is online booking.

What is online booking?

I believe an online booking system can be described as a software solution used for self-serve appointment management. This allows patients to book appointments themselves through your own unique booking page which can be linked to your website or social media. A range of different types of software offer online booking platforms which can manage your diary, display your treatment lists and practitioner availability. Some examples of these systems are Aesthetic Nurse Software, e-clinic and Pabau.

The benefits

Your business is always open

You will never miss a potential booking! Did you know that between 4pm and 8pm on a Sunday is the most popular time to book an appointment?1 This is likely when people usually have the most downtime, allowing them to plan for their weeks ahead. As a result, small independent businesses are typically losing out on a large amount of footfall. With an online booking system, whether you’re in-clinic, training or even having a week in the sun, patients can view the treatments you offer and your availability at a time that suits them. Essentially, it allows you to take bookings 24/7, removing the back-and-forth of messages or waiting until Monday for one of the team to pick-up. In an industry worth £3.6 billion, it’s time to make your business more accessible and hit the ground running in this competitive industry.2

Create a professional first impression

Online booking systems can boost your first professional impression. In the UK, it is estimated that 45 million users are active on social media for an average of 110 minutes a day. Of these active users 28% research brands, products and services to buy.3 This equates to more than 12.6 million people looking for services online that, without an online booking system in place, practitioners could be missing out on. The first impression of a webpage is made within the first few seconds on the page meaning an efficient booking system with easy processes can boost the conversion rate from browsing activity to active bookings.

Appointment confirmations and reminders

In today’s busy society patients can sometimes lose track of their scheduled appointments. However, with an online booking system automatic confirmations and reminders will be sent to patients regarding their appointments. Therefore, this removes practitioners from the mind-numbing admin task of manually sending these reminders each day – eating into your own personal time. By creating set foundations and a rhythm for appointment confirmations and reminders this will reduce the number of no-show appointments and late cancellations. Allowing you to focus on what matters most, the patient experience and your clinical procedures.

Protect your time and business

There is nothing more annoying than a patient not turning up for their appointments or receiving a last-minute cancellation, effecting your business growth and causing loss of productivity.

Let’s say you have one no-show appointment each week for an anti-wrinkle treatment in two areas of the face. A conservative charge for this appointment is £150 – that’s £600 a month and £7,200 a year! However, deposits are a great way to prevent this loss of income and if a no-show or a late cancellation does happen, the deposit can be used as compensation for your wasted time. Now, you may already request deposits but if this method is through bank transfers, it can be a time-consuming process to keep on top of, chasing payments before the appointment. Using an online booking system can allow you to charge patients a deposit at the time of booking to secure their appointment, stating your cancellation policy which patients must agree to before their booking is complete.

Also, this gives patients the ability to easily reschedule appointments. It can be easy to forget to get in touch to cancel or reschedule an appointment, especially when it’s out of hours. However, if you can make it possible for them to manage their own appointments by simply clicking a button then you are likely to reduce your last-minute cancellations and no-shows.

The paperless medical record rules which were introduced in 2018 is another reason for practitioners to move towards online booking services so the patients’ confidential information is logged into a centralised system. By doing this, your services are complying with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and reduces the risk of having a potential data breach.4

The misconceptions

Although online booking systems have benefits, there are some misconceptions about using them within the industry.

I’m losing the personal touch with my patients

Some practitioners feel that taking away the communication between practitioners and patients can reduce the personal touch of your service – this is a fair point. However, now more than ever, people are used to booking appointments online and expect other services to offer the same speed and convenience when doing so. With 75% of millennials avoiding phone calls as they are deemed ‘too time consuming’ your business may be losing a valuable demographic.5

Patients will be able to book any time they want

Online bookings don’t give your patients 24/7 access to you; it simply gives them access to book an appointment. You will have control over the dates and times that you are available; with the ability to specify the clinics and dates you are working. You can also choose the specific treatments you wish to offer. Some practitioners will opt to just allow patients to book a consultation online. So, rest assured, you will not be receiving bookings for every waking hour of the day!

It’s a cost I can’t afford

Yes, this software does come at a price. However, where software used to be expensive, you can find fantastic software that is affordable. Some have no long-term commitment and work out at just 50p a day! You need to weigh up the small monthly cost compared to the time it will save you. If you’re able to free up an hour each week that would have been spent on managing business admin, then that’s an hour you could use for an extra treatment – which covers the monthly cost.

Getting started

You will need to start by finding a software which suits you and your business’s needs. You may want to consider the following:

  • Does it link to patient records and medical/ consent forms?
  • Is it specifically designed for aesthetics?
  • Is it reasonably priced?
  • Can it link to your website and social media?
  • Are other medical practitioners recommending it?
  • Are there any hidden or additional fees?

Most software companies will offer a free trial, allowing you to manoeuvre through the software and access all elements including the online booking page. A good software system will have individuals on hand to help you set up and confidently use your online booking system as well as offer continued support going forward.

Introducing the new system

When launching your online booking platform there are several actions you can take to promote your transition.

  • Social media – create a post to let patients know you have launched your new booking page or maybe create a short screen-recording or reel to show how easy it is to use and add to your highlights area
  • Email marketing – send an email out to your patient list. Include the link to your booking page and a few simple steps for them to follow
  • Website – add your online booking page to your website and include clear call to action buttons, such as ‘Book Now’

Try it yourself!

Online booking systems can split opinions about whether they should or shouldn’t be used within the industry. However, these systems are an easy way to convert extra traffic for your small business and are a real revenue generator when first trying to gain industry attention. With nearly half of all Google searches being for local services and having a conversion rate of 80%, it’s time to send your business into the world of online bookings.6

Disclosure: Max Hayward is the director of Aesthetic Nurse Software

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