Guest Post: Don't Be Scared of Letting Your Patients Book Dental Appointments Online - It's a Win-Win for You and Your Patients.

February 3, 2022

We love it when our friends in the industry share something interesting with our members. Today, our friend Dr. Gina Dorfman, CEO of Yapi Dental and a successful dentist, shares with us the myths about scheduling appointments online.

Let's get right into it:

Online dental platform appointment scheduling is growing in popularity with dental patients. In contrast to phonebookings, online scheduling is more convenient for patients and saves time for the dentalfront office team. Many dentists are afraid to switch because of common myths andmisconceptions regarding digital scheduling systems. Your fears may include worrying aboutinsurance incompatibility and patients messing up your well-organized schedule. You may alsothink that a phone call is more intimate and personalized for the patient. In reality, scheduling byphone is more time-consuming and more frustrating for both the patient and the dental officeteam.

There are so many reasons you shouldn't be afraid of online appointment bookings. It is atransition that usually requires a time investment to customize your dental office systems but later paysdividends in increased dental office systems efficiency and happier patients. Here, we dispel the misconceptionssurrounding online booking.

Myth #1: Patients Prefer Phone Bookings

Picture this: It is 4 p.m. at your dental practice with one more hour left in the workday. Yourfinal patients have all arrived (some early, some late). They are waiting patiently to check in, butthere is a problem. Both of your front office team members took calls just before the last patientsof the day arrived. Both calls are to schedule appointments. Your patient care coordinators don'twant to put the phone patients on hold and risk upsetting them, yet these appointments arecomplex and take time to figure out. Now, you are running behind, your dental hygienist keepspopping in to see if her patient is ready to be seated, the patients in front of you are gettingimpatient, and all of your team members are stressed out. You might even not get done on timeand go home late.

Having a customizable real-time online scheduling system in your practice can take a lot ofstress off the front office team and create a better patient experience. The number one mythabout online scheduling is that patients prefer phone bookings. It is an understandableassumption and may depend on the average age of your patients. Those with older patientsassume they enjoy the familiar and personalized experience of talking to a person on the phone.

Yet even older patients get annoyed when they hear, "Can I put you on hold". Other than the veryelderly patient, most adults are familiar with the Internet and comfortable schedulingappointments online. Plus, millennials and younger generations prefer it.

Your dental team may need convincing to change up their usual workflow willingly. Over time,however, the team members will recognize how much less stressful their jobs become. They willhave more time to manage patients in the office and answer phone calls related to morecomplicated issues. Patients that do call the office won't be put on hold. Your dental front officeteam will be on the phone less. Consequently, they can focus on other tasks without beinginterrupted. Everyone wins!

Myth #2: Online Bookings Will Mess Up Your Schedule

Every dental team operates differently. Some prefer to handle complex restorative cases duringthe morning and new patients in the afternoon. Others prefer the complete opposite approach.

They all have in common the need for a customizable system of online scheduling.

One of your chief concerns about online scheduling is that patients will mess up the schedule.Your dental front dental office systems team is highly knowledgeable about your practice's specific ins and outs.

They know exactly how to categorize the appointment and where it should fit into the schedule.

On the other hand, patients don't know how long their visits should be, what time of day, andwhich operatory to schedule them. But don't worry, your schedule is not as complicated as youthink. Any reliable scheduling software will allow you to customize the appointment offeringsand create required dropdowns to categorize patient appointments.

What about insurance? It's easy to set up your scheduling software to request and requireinsurance information before booking. If you don't take a patient's insurance, they won't be ableto schedule.

Myth #3: Patients Will Cancel Last-Minute More Often

If patients don't establish a relationship with your practice through a personal phone call, willthey be more likely to keep the appointment? Diving deeper, it is clear that this isn't the case.

A phone call isn't significantly more personal than an online system. The conversation probablydoesn't last more than 7 minutes, and the new patient does not see a human face. In fact, a phonecall can be a potential turn-off if the call goes to voicemail, a patient waits on hold for a longtime, or the scheduling coordinator feels rushed. Established patients have already developed arelationship with your practice. A patient who books an appointment over the phone thus isn'theld more accountable than a patient who books online.It is more likely that the patient's stress level at the time of booking will impact whether theybecome a no-show or not. Over the phone, they have to choose between a few options offered bythe scheduling coordinator while considering their availability and other commitments. They often have to call during the workday when they are busy and trying to multi-task. It is a recipefor scheduling at the wrong time, forgetting to write the date down, or becoming frustrated anddeciding they might not like the practice. Online scheduling allows patients to schedule at aconvenient time, and they can easily access their calendar and consider the best day and time.

This environment is more likely to lead to a kept appointment.

A bonus is that some digital systems like Smart Fill from YAPI can help you fill last-minutecancellations. Patients are more likely to cancel if they wait for an appointment for a long time asthe urgency passes. Thus, a system that allows patients to request to be notified when an earlieror more convenient time becomes available, such as Smart Fill, will help keep your appointmentbook full even when last-minute cancellations come up.

You have enough things to worry about at your dental practice. Remove scheduling from yourlist of problems while simultaneously increasing the profitability of your practice. Onlinescheduling equals fewer cancellations, a fuller schedule, happier patients, and relaxed teammembers. Modern patients expect you to have a digital presence. They will be delighted whenthey go to your website or their favorite review site and find an online scheduling system; nowaiting on hold, no rushed conversations, no scheduling mistakes. When they visit your practice,they will find your staff welcoming and available to help them. Invest in an online schedulingsystem, and life will be a lot easier for everyone.

About the Author

For almost two decades, Dr. Gina Dorfman has continually proved herself to be an innovativeleader in the field of dentistry. As a dentist, practice owner, and entrepreneur, Dr. Dorfman hashad the opportunity to engage with dental professionals across the country to help them grow andthrive.

Dr. Dorfman completed her dental training at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry in 2000and shortly after started her practice near Los Angeles, California.

While starting a practice in a saturated market came with its challenges, the practice grewtremendously over the years, expanding to several locations. Because of her experience runningmultiple practices and leading a big team, Dr. Dorfman developed a unique insight into howefficient practices organize and operate and how dental teams can work together to overcomeobstacles and reach their goals. A recognized speaker and author, Dr. Dorfman is regularlyinvited to teach other dentists across the country.

Dr. Dorfman is also a frequent contributor to several industry publications and blogs. She is alsothe Behind the Smiles Podcast host, which features the most disruptive and influential dentalcommunity members moving dentistry forward.Her passion for creating systems and leveraging technology to streamline practice operationseventually led her to co-found YAPI, a practice automation software, where she serves as thecompany's CEO.

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