In my first post on this series, I summarized the four essential components of running a successful practice. Today, I’m going to talk a little bit about the first step: getting patients to schedule appointments. Unless you’re running a walk-in clinic, having an appointment book with an adequate number of patients scheduled is a critical first step. Without it, you’ll be spending a lot of time sitting around wasting time online.

This is also an area that a lot of practices mess things up. Too many practices make what should be a simple process extremely difficult.

Let me share a personal example. A few years ago I wanted to have my feet checked out by a podiatrist while I was training for a marathon. I did a little bit of research and found one close to my home and seemed like it was a decent place, so I gave them a call while driving home from the office. I didn’t really know what I expected, but what should have been a simple conversation turned into what felt like a background check. The (very nice) receptionist asked me for every piece of personal information I could possibly imagine. She asked for my insurance information, including ID# and Group #, so I had to pull over to look that up. She detailed the office’s financial policy. When it was all finished, we spent nearly 15 minutes on the phone and I was more than ready to hang up.

Why do I bring this up? Well, it’s an example of what not to do. Don’t make scheduling an appointment too difficult. Do you really need to get every piece of contact information from your new patients when they call for the first time? I don’t think so. Should you go over every detail of your office’s policies over the phone? Definitely not. During that phone call, who knows how many other phone calls they might have missed?

So, here are some actions you can take to lower the barriers that prevent patients from scheduling an appointment:

  • Decide what the minimum required amount of information that you need to schedule an appointment and don’t ask for anything else during the initial phone call. You probably need less info than you think.
  • Are you scheduling patients via email/web? If not, figure out a way to start doing so.
  • Make sure your phones are actually being answered during the times that prospective patients are trying to call. There are a number of call tracking services that can provide this information.

There’s a lot more you can do to increase the number of patients, both established and new, who are scheduling appointments. More on the in future posts.