Did you know that online scheduling can help dentists literally generate millions more in revenue, save thousands in labor, and improve patient satisfaction at the same time?
Don’t take our word for it, though. We walk you through the math so you can perform calculations for your practice and outline exactly where all that profit comes from below. You’ll also learn best practices to help you get the most from your online scheduling program.
What is Online Dental Scheduling?
First, let’s start with what online scheduling is not.
- It’s not a form on your site that patients fill out in order to get a call or email back.
- It’s not an option to email you.
- It’s not a button they push to request a callback.
These are Band-Aids practices use to fill a technology gap and they don’t have the same impact that a full online scheduling platform can offer.
Every online scheduling program is a bit different. Practice-Web’s, for example, works with your practice management software to provide a streamlined experience for both patients and staff alike. The process works something like this:
- The link is shared. The practice shares its online booking link on its website or via text, email, social media, and anywhere else an existing or prospective patient may need it.
- The patient clicks and begins booking. The patient makes their selections, such as appointment type and provider, then chooses their preferred date and time.
- The patient authenticates and identifies themselves. The patient is then prompted to authenticate with a code sent to them to eliminate spam appointments. Once authenticated, existing patients simply select their name or the name of the family member who needs an appointment. New patients enter their information.
- The schedule populates with the appointment and the patient gets their next steps. After the appointment is booked, the appointment automatically appears on the practice’s schedule. If you’re using automated reminders, they’ll receive them when your other patients do. Meanwhile, your patient is taken to a next steps screen with your practice address and map. If you’re using the forms that come with online scheduling, the patient is prompted to fill out their paperwork right away.
5 Ways Online Scheduling Boosts Profit and Delights Patients
Now that you know a bit about how it works, let’s explore what makes online scheduling such a valuable tool for dentists.
1. Patients Prefer Online Scheduling Over Scheduling via Phone
In all, 79 percent of patients prefer to schedule online per Dentavox. It’s so important that 35 percent of the population will automatically choose a dentist who offers virtual booking over one who does not according to HealthGrades.
Why do they love it? More than half say it saves them time, 14 percent say online schedulers are easy to use, and 10 percent say it minimizes time spent outside of work per Dentavox research.
In other words, offering this seemingly simple thing can determine if someone schedules with you or another dentist. It impacts patient satisfaction, and thus retention, as well.
2. Online Scheduling Can Reduce Payroll Expenses or Allow You to Reallocate Resources
In our Online Scheduling Webinar, we highlighted Accenture data which shows it takes 8.1 minutes to schedule an appointment on average.
Let’s do some quick math.
[(Number of Patients Seen Per Week X 0.79 X 8 mins) / 60 mins] X $18.59 = Weekly Labor Saved
You can plug your practice’s numbers in to determine the value of online scheduling for your office too. For this, let’s assume you’re only seeing 25 patients per day or 95 patients per week. Since only 79 percent will book online, that’s 75 scheduling calls your team doesn’t have to make. We’ll also use the BLS average hourly rate for a dental assistant which currently sits at $18.59.
[(95 X 0.79 X 8) / 60] X $18.59] = $186.02
Over the course of the year, that’s $9673.24 saved for a typical practice. The more patients you see, the more you’ll save in labor.
3. Online Scheduling Gives You 24/7 Coverage for Booking Patients After Hours
Did you know that 87 percent of prospective new patients will not leave a message if they don’t get a live person when they call per CallTracker research? You can use a tool like Smart Caller ID to track missed calls and proactively call prospective patients back in the morning or on Monday when you’re back in the office, but many will have already scheduled with someone by the time you reach out to them.
That’s a huge problem for practices that don’t offer 24/7 coverage because 43 percent of patients look for dentists after hours according to Becker’s Hospital Review. Let’s translate this into numbers for your practice too.
Total Searches for “Dentist” Per Month
People use different terms to mean the same or similar things when they search for dental care online. For example, one person may search for “dentist,” another for “dentist near me,” and another for “emergency dental treatment” or “root canal.” For simplicity’s sake, we’ll look at how many people in five major metropolitan areas are searching for the word “dentist” any given month per Google’s Keyword tools.
- New York City – 60,500
- Los Angeles – 22,200
- Chicago – 18,100
- Dallas – 9,900
- Miami – 6,600
After-Hours Searches for “Dentist” Per Month
Because we know that 43 percent of people are searching after dental offices close for the day, we can surmise that the total number of people searching after hours are as follows:
- New York City – 26,015
- Los Angeles – 9,546
- Chicago – 7,783
- Dallas – 4,257
- Miami – 2,838
New Patients Gained Per Month from After-Hours Searches
We know that when people run a search on Google, almost 29 percent will click on the first result, nearly 16 percent on the second, and 11 percent on the third per Search Engine Land. What they find when they click will determine whether they book or not. (See our beginner’s guide to dental marketing for more info.) So, if you rank in the top three, you can expect 11-29 percent of people to visit your site and, if your site does its job, become patients. That means you can expect this many new patients each month:
- New York City – 2,861-7,544
- Los Angeles – 1,050-2,768
- Chicago – 856-2,257
- Dallas – 468-1,235
- Miami – 312-823
Annual Production from New Patients Coming from After-Hours Searches
We also know that the average patient value is $644.12 per Dental Intel research. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume you’re only ranking third on Google, multiply the lowest number above by 12 months to represent a year of new patient generation, and then multiply that number by $644.12 to represent the value of each new patient gained that year.
- New York City – $22,113,927.80
- Los Angeles – $8,115,912.00
- Chicago – $6,616,400.64
- Dallas – $3,617,377.92
- Miami – $2,411,585.28
Online Scheduling is Worth Millions in Production
These are real figures gathered today that demonstrate the new patient production value of online scheduling. That’s not to say you can sign up for online scheduling and all of a sudden start generating an extra $22 million per year (would be nice though!). It’s part of a larger ecosystem that includes having a practice website, building up your SEO, developing trust through reviews and bios, and making it easy for new patients to schedule.
4. Patients Keep Their Appointments More Often When They Select the Time
As we covered in our Going Paperless Webinar, around 10 percent of appointments become no-shows or cancellations, which amounts to $104,000 in annual lost production for a typical practice. When people are allowed to select their own time and date for an appointment, no-shows reduce by 17 percent per Becker’s Hospital Review.
That’s $17,680 in annual retained production for a typical practice.
5. Online Booking Fills Gaps in Your Schedule
When patients are given the option to book online, 26 percent will take same-day or next-day appointments according to Dentistry IQ. That means your schedule stays fuller and production climbs automatically – without your team having to do any extra work.
Online Scheduling Best Practices
We chatted with some of our most tenured training and support specialists to find out what strategies Practice-Web dentists are leveraging to get the best results from online scheduling. Here’s what they told us.
The number one reason patients don’t book online according to Dentavox surveys is that the option isn’t offered by their dentist. Nearly 40 percent cite this as the reason they don’t use online scheduling.
Train the Team
Everyone on your team should understand how your online scheduling works. Training should include:
- A walkthrough of what patients experience when they schedule online.
- Why patients love online scheduling.
- What happens on the back end with your practice management software when a patient schedules online.
- How online scheduling benefits your practice.
Each online scheduling tool has different features. With Practice-Web’s Smart Tool, you can customize the program to suit your office’s workflows and needs. A few things you might want to consider include:
- If your practice will charge an online booking fee and, if so, how much.
- Which providers patients can book with.
- Which procedures patients may book.
- Which operatories allow online bookings.
- If you want to leverage in-workflow patient forms for smoother onboarding or if you want to use your standard forms.
Update Your Templates
As part of your setup process, go through all your templates and make sure your online booking link is included where appropriate. This includes your text message templates if you’re using pwConnect, our patient texting service, Note templates, Quick Notes, and email footers.
Add the Scheduling Button to Your Website
Make sure your online booking link is in a prominent place on your website. The header or main menu works best but look for other places to include it, such as on sidebars, your contact page, and at the bottom of pages to encourage people to book after reading about your practice.
Include Your Scheduling Link Around the Net
Your website is just one of the many places prospective patients will visit as they discover your practice and learn more about it. For example, your current patients may mention you on Facebook. Having the “Book Now” button in place will reduce friction in the scheduling process and increase appointments. Nearly 90 percent will read online reviews. Be sure to add your link to sites like Yelp for this reason as well.
Include Mentions of Online Scheduling at Intake
Make sure new patients are informed of your online booking option and include it in call scripts if you use them. Patients should receive details such as the URL or where to look for the booking section on your website.
Make Online Scheduling Available to All Patients
Even though online scheduling is HUGE for new patients, it’s great for keeping your existing patients happy too. When you select which appointment types patients may book, include recall appointments and limited exams/ emergency appointments.
Reactivate Patients with It
Online scheduling works beautifully with text and email reactivation campaigns. Just include the link and watch as your schedule fills up.
Educate Your Patients
If you’re using our mass email marketing Smart Tool pwNewsletter, send out a quick blast to let patients know about the feature and how to use it when you launch. Then, mention it in your practice newsletters on an ongoing basis, so your patients don’t forget you have a website (or Facebook) and they have confidence that they can schedule with you when they need you.
Include Your Online Scheduling Link in Your Marketing Blasts
Running a practice special or promotion? Include the online booking link to make it easy for patients to take advantage of the offer. For example, if you’re promoting whitening, add a “Free Virtual Whitening Consult” option to your booking choices, then include the booking link in your emails and text messages. The dentist can meet with the patient for a few minutes via your teledentistry tool and make sure they’re a good candidate for whitening before setting aside operatory time.
Get Online Scheduling or Help Maximizing the Value of It
The online scheduling Smart Tool covered here is designed to work specifically with Practice-Web all-in-one practice management software.
- Don’t have Practice-Web? Click here to start with a complimentary demo.
- Have Practice-Web, but not online scheduling? Click here to sign up and request a free trial.
- Have Practice-Web AND online scheduling, but want help implementing best practices and maximizing value? Click here to connect with our Support team.