An efficient appointment process is one of the most important elements of running a clinic. This can result in not only happier patients with the service provided, but also higher revenues and simpler hours of operation.
In recent years, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, patients have begun to change their views about health care. Digital appointment scheduling has now become the norm.
Many professionals who work in the health sector, whether in clinics or other types of establishments, wonder how we can improve care management now that we are living in the “new normal”?
For this reason , in this article I will explain 12 strategies to improve the management of medical appointments in a clinic . In addition, I will provide you with recommendations for good care practices that you should consider when communicating with your patients.
But first, review the points that will be touched on in the article. 👇🏻
- 1) 4 good practices for customer service in clinics
- 1.1) Say hello to your patients
- 1.2) Reduce waiting times
- 1.3) Be honest with your opening hours
- 1.4) Improves the aesthetics and amenities of the establishment
- 2) 11 strategies to improve management of medical appointments in a clinic
- 2.1) Implement telehealth
- 2.2) Integrate a patient portal on your website
- 2.3) Use a chatbot to schedule appointments
- 2.4) Make the most of the data you have
- 2.5) Automate answers to basic questions
- 2.6) Use the effective prioritization tactic
- 2.7) Send broadcast messages
- 2.8) Set up an appointment reminder system
- 2.9) Improve call operations
- 2.10) Integrate a self-service
- 2.11) Make the costs of the service clear
- 3) Conclusions
4 good practices of customer service in clinics
First impressions only happen once, so make it count! From the first moment of attention, patients form an opinion about your establishment. Therefore, it is always good to impress them and take care of them to give them good attention.
Making a good first impression is always important as it can help gain a patient’s trust at first sight. Additionally, creating an environment that is relaxing and calming can relieve anxiety and reduce stress, creating a more positive experience .
But how to make that first impression both in physical stores and digital channels? Next, I will mention 4 good practices that will serve as a guide for good customer service .
Say hello to your patients
Whether in a service through your chat channels or at the reception of your establishment, your service agents must offer a friendly greeting. To a large extent, these types of actions create a good impression since you convey that you really care about your patients.
In case you have to manage appointments by chat, speak to them by name and use emojis. In this way, the communication does not become very cold. In the case of face-to-face service, your agents should always speak with a smile and be very compassionate when dealing with people’s problems.
Reduce waiting times
For appointment management to be of quality, it is important to reduce waiting times to the minimum . First of all, and most importantly, it is about health issues and the patient wants a quick response to be attended to.
On the other hand, there is also the aspect of user experience. Remember that nobody likes to wait for a response through a digital channel . Therefore, use chatbots as a self-service strategy . Thus, your patients will be able to manage their appointments, schedule them or cancel them. However, you should also have the option of having an agent serve them.
In addition, your business must be prepared for the high demands of attention. In fact, during 2020, more than 14 million visits were made in Peru through digital channels . For this reason, it is important to have an omnichannel software that allows you to unify all your channels and facilitates multi-agent service.
Be honest with your business hours
Sincerity is your best tool to create a good experience with your patients. Therefore, it is better to be clear when serving them. Openly tell them your business hours and use chatbots to schedule messages offline .
Also, it is important to offer a 24/7 chat self-service. Thus, the user will be able to manage basic actions, such as the schedules of a medical specialty, without the need for an agent to attend to them.
Improves the aesthetics and amenities of the establishment
Customer service should not only be understood by a good interaction. In the case of the health sector, physical infrastructure also matters. In this way, the good impression you caused by serving them will be maintained when they come to your establishment.
For example, having a properly ventilated waiting room. On occasion, when I went to a clinic, I have noticed that there is a television in the waiting room showing news. While this may be well-intentioned, it can also increase stress on patients .
If you don’t have institutional videos, consider changing the channel to something quieter like a nature or geography show .
On the other hand, a cluttered reception desk and worn furniture in the waiting area communicate poor money management in the establishment . Finally, other points to consider are the following:
- There must be enough seats.
- The position of the furniture must allow a fluid conversation between people.
- Have enough reading material available.
- Keep the area clean and well organized.
11 strategies to improve management of medical appointments in a clinic
Telehealth is the use of technology to allow patients to communicate with their doctors by phone . This practice already existed before 2020, but it was during the pandemic that remote patient monitoring took off.
This tactic is really convenient for both specialists and patients. Since it allows monitoring symptoms of bedridden people, with mobility problems and the elderly without the need for physical contact .
For this reason, it is important to have customer service software that allows the scalability of your agents . That is, increase or decrease the number of telemarketers whenever demand requires it.
Integrate a patient portal on your website
Patient web portals are designed to help people access their medical records , interact with their preferred doctors, or ask the clinic questions or comments about a service.
With this tool, patients can fill out health questionnaires, consent forms and send documents from their smartphones or other devices such as laptops or PCs.
This practice keeps patient flows moving, avoids congested waiting rooms, and reduces missed appointments .
Use a chatbot to schedule appointments
Chatbots are ideal for managing your clinic’s appointments. Since it allows patients to schedule their appointments by themselves . With this tool, scheduling medical appointments will be much faster. In addition, for the user it is very intuitive and easy to use.
It is crucial to allow patients to schedule their appointments through a web portal or messaging application of their choice. This, in addition to streamlining the scheduling process, will increase patient satisfaction and free up your staff’s time.
Make the most of the data you have
Analyze the data you’ve collected from patients to identify trends and causes of rescheduling and cancellation. For this, you can use an omnichannel platform that unifies all your service channels and saves all the conversation history , regardless of which channel a service comes from.
The data generated from patient chats is a good source to start tracking appointment times, arrival times, doctor office hours, and other key metrics.
In addition, this type of communication platform allows knowing important KPIs about the confirmation and absence rates , which helps to determine the ideal moment to send messages.
Automate responses to basic questions
Patients will not always have enough time to have fluid communication with care staff . So an advanced system such as a chatbot that includes the use of keywords will allow them to send automatic responses.
Users will be able to use common phrases in this context such as: “I confirm the appointment”, “I want to cancel the appointment”, “reschedule”, “I will be there” or “I will not be able to attend”.
Some patients prefer to talk to a real person at the clinic to schedule appointments .
Use the effective prioritization tactic
Medical appointment care may vary if an urgency or emergency arises during the day . According to what the users comment, you will be able to decide where and when to program them.
For example, some problems, such as side effects from taking medications, can be resolved with a phone call.
Likewise, the chat channels allow patients to report on the frequency and intensity of the symptoms related to their ailment through intuitive conversation flows. With this information, the system can sort all appointments received by urgency.
An experienced clinic staff member can make the final decision as to whether a particular patient requires immediate consultation with a specific specialist or whether it is better to wait for another date.
Send broadcast messages
When unforeseen situations occur, you may need to reschedule or cancel all patient appointments for the day. In these situations, you should send broadcast messages. This saves your staff hours of phone calls to alert each patient about possible delays and appointment rescheduling.
For this, I recommend that you purchase the WhatsApp Business API . With this tool you will be able to send personalized notifications to all your clients without falling into spam . Generating these types of alerts makes the client less angry when their appointments are rescheduled.
Set up an appointment reminder system
Reduce the number of no-shows through automated systems to call or text patients at specific times prior to appointments.
An appointment reminder system allows patients to reschedule or cancel their appointment within a set period of time , by responding directly to the automatic reminder. This avoids annoying plan changes due to last minute cancellations.
Improve call operations
Some patients prefer to speak to a real person at the clinic to schedule appointments rather than to a bot or via text. A customer service specialist must have certain qualities in order to have successful communication with customers. Among those features are:
- Have tolerance to deal with all kinds of patients.
- Excellent communication skill.
- Attention to details.
- Be friendly.
Integrate a self-service
Instead of investing resources in a call center area in the clinic, you can give patients the ability to manage their schedules on their own . Currently, people feel more and more comfortable following online processes, such as enrolling in virtual courses at a university or simply buying online.
An alternative is to implement a chatbot specialized in appointment scheduling that allows:
- The planning of more convenient schedules for the patient.
- Easy to apply filters on available specialists.
- Review clinic opening hours.
- Notifications and reminders.
Ideally, the bot can have appointment scheduling capabilities. In addition, you can be available to your patients 24 hours a day , 7 days a week, so they can manage their time at any time.
Make clear the costs of the service
Always make clear the costs of the service. Directly stating the prices of your services keeps your patients calm since they will know exactly how much they are going to spend. On the other hand, if you are not transparent, there will be a frustration in not having that information.
In the management of medical appointments in a clinic, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Therefore, the best option is to rely on software that is flexible enough to adapt to the unique approach of the clinic.
The practices mentioned in this article can be a good starting point for your health facility to start on the path to efficient and reliable patient appointment scheduling.