Have you ever thought about how online veterinary appointment scheduling changed the veterinary industry? Some customers may still remember what it was like in the past: hours of waiting, long lines, crowded waiting rooms, and all just to get their pet to see a doctor. Fortunately, with the advance of technologies, there is no need to be physically present to get an appointment: online scheduling does it for the clients. It is now a challenge to maintain a smooth process of the veterinary appointment scheduling to leave a client satisfied. To set such a process in your office, you should understand how veterinary appointment scheduling works. Do you know why customers prefer online scheduling? Did you think about why clinics need confirmation and appointment reminders? Find these and many more answers here. The article is going to guide you through types of appointment scheduling and will explain the main benefits of the veterinary appointment scheduling. Additionally, you will explore the best scheduling practices for your unique business needs.
Types of veterinary appointment scheduling
Veterinary appointment scheduling is scheduling software that enables managing appointments for clients and their pets. The tool is beneficial both for clients and the staff. Clients are more satisfied since they do not have to wait in long lines to get an appointment. Accordingly, the staff has no need to spend hours on the phone and deal with an overwhelming amount of work. As a result, your veterinary practice benefits from increased revenue and positive customer reviews. You should choose the veterinary appointment scheduling that works best for your office’s unique needs. For this, let’s check the main types of scheduling first.
Stream scheduling, single booking, fixed appointment scheduling – these are all names for the time-specified scheduling. This kind of veterinary appointment scheduling is used to minimize the waiting time and to maintain a steady flow of patients. The duration of the visit for the time-specified appointment may vary depending on the reason for the visit. The minimum time is dedicated to established patients – from 10 to 20 minutes. Complete physical examination, as well as new patients, takes from 30 to 45 minutes.
Do not forget to make time for urgent visits when creating a stream schedule to avoid an overload.
Wave scheduling is when a medical assistant sets an appointment for 4-6 patients every hour, and the specialist sees them in the order they arrive.
The tricky part here is to avoid conflicts as clients may not be satisfied that another patient has the same appointment time. The medical assistant may explain that waiting time is usually shorter in such a scheduling approach and that patients are seen in the order they arrive. And this is true: the goal of the wave scheduling is to create an agile flow of patients and assure that there is always a patient waiting to be seen.
There is also a modified wave scheduling, which is considered to be safer. It means that the office schedules patients at a specific time during the first half-hour of each hour, and keeps the rest of the half-hour open. This approach is helpful when patients are late for the appointment or when a doctor finishes with another patient.
Double booking includes scheduling two patients at the same slot. This type of scheduling is adequate when one of the patients needs to undergo a diagnostic procedure such as the electrocardiogram. It can also be accurate for emergency cases, such as acute illness or patients with an injury.
An open booking means that there is no specific time for the appointment, and the patient can come in a certain time frame. For instance, an office manager can tell the client to come from 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. This can work for not a busy practice as the patient flow is unpredictable, and practices that get a lot of patients can become overloaded.
Why your practice needs an appointment booking software?
Before clients could schedule vet appointments online, they had to schedule them over the phone. Such a method of scheduling was inconvenient both for patients and the staff. Fortunately, with the advance of technologies, clients are now able to use various software that help to make the process of veterinary appointment scheduling as easy as possible. Practice management software became a reliable solution for most clinics. The software can be easily integrated with your clinic’s website that has many inbuilt appointment features. We will get to the features later in the article. But first, let’s go over the main benefits of online booking:
Your clients don’t have to spend time calling, checking availability, and booking appointments. Clients can schedule and book vet appointments in a single click. The same applies to the staff, as they do not need to complete unnecessary and time-consuming tasks to deal with every client.
Provides marketing opportunities
If clients book an appointment at your website, they may find other offers and additional information there. Moreover, the program collects information about the time of the day they schedule a vet appointment, payment method, which can be useful for further analysis.
Makes the process easier for clients and staff
Making a payment or canceling an appointment is not a challenge anymore. Cancellation requires a single click, just like booking itself. The payment can also be made online, which makes the process easier.
Veterinary appointments scheduling features
Most software are customized, which is especially useful in veterinary practice as each office has its unique needs. Moreover, think about how much time the staff spends on the phone each week, booking appointments, and manually entering data into the system. When you schedule a vet appointment online, you get other useful features that contribute to your practice’s success. Virtual wait-list, appointment confirmation and reminders, and online check-in are the features you can get with the veterinary appointment scheduling. Let’s look at each of them:
I bet your staff knows the frustration when a client cancels an appointment, and they realize that another person could easily be booked for that time. The virtual wait-list solves the issue as clients can sign up and receive notifications for the last minute cancellations and openings. If the time works for them, clients can take the vacant slot and get that appointment.
Appointment confirmations and reminders
As we already discussed, it is better to make a follow-up appointment when a patient is still in the office. Patients can forget about the appointment if it is scheduled in advance. That is when confirmation and reminders come in to ensure that the client does not forget about the appointment, which is a great way to reduce the cancellation rate.
Streaming check-in process in the vet office is vital as customers will understand how much they need to wait. As the recent study discovered, the perception of the customer’s wait time matters more than the actual wait time. Moreover, scholars found that this information is more valuable than offered TV or Wi-Fi. That means that if the customer knows how much time he needs to wait, it makes an experience more pleasant for them.
Some of the features that appointment booking software provides can be extremely useful for your business. To get the most out of the veterinary appointment scheduling, try using appointment confirmation and reminders. Here is how you can benefit from using reminders:
Decrease no-shows and last-minute cancellations rate
Any veterinary practice knows that no-shows and last-minute cancellations cause a significant issue for any vet practice. Every year, a single veterinary office may lose up to $50000 on cancellations and no-shows. An ability to schedule a vet appointment online is changing that as appointment booking software implies useful features that help to deal with cancellations and no-shows.
Better use of administrative resources
With appointment reminders, you will be on top of the schedule in the office, which will allow you to plan ahead and will help you benefit from every appointment canceled by a client.
Decrease waiting time
When you send a confirmation or reminder the next time, think about suggesting a patient come 15 minutes in advance. It may be an excellent boost for the patient, and it may help you to ensure that your day’s scheduled appointments don’t get backed up. This approach can be especially useful in the mornings as you never know if the appointment will take more time than expected.
An ability to send reminders automatically and a variety of features help saving time. Hence, fewer people are needed to perform certain tasks, which can help you to save on labor. It also influences the return of investment as you benefit not only from managing last-minute cancellations but also from reducing no show-offs rate. Moreover, digital reminders are far more efficient than postal reminders.
That’s what clients prefer
Confirmations and reminders are not only beneficial for your return on investment – clients also need reminders. The ability to reschedule an appointment makes the experience for the client more pleasant.
How to get the most out of the veterinary appointment scheduling
Okay, so now you understand different types of scheduling, know the features and advantages of the online veterinary scheduling; however, to get a profitable result, you need to establish and implement a scheduling practice wisely. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Here are some ideas for scheduling veterinary appointments:
Keep the routine going
The idea here is to provide the support that your team will need during the busy days. If your staff has proper guidance, they will be able to handle complicated situations with ease. For this, you need to establish a routine with your staff and keep it going, so in case of unexpected circumstances, they know exactly what to do.
Manage time for appointments wisely
Try scheduling appointments that require more effort in the mornings. If you focus on finishing intense tasks first, that leaves an afternoon free to address any present issues or discuss treatment with your patients.
Make time in your schedule for emergencies and walk-ins
Dedicating one hour per doctor to emergency appointments or walk-ins can create a healthier environment for your doctors. In the example below, emergency appointments and walk-ins are booked throughout the day. This type of vet appointment scheduling ensures that there is always a doctor available if an issue arises. If an appointment is not getting booked, doctors have time to get ready for the next appointment, complete more clerical tasks, or get some time for themselves.
Consider multiple channels for offering an appointment
The ability to book an appointment through various channels can drive more clients to your clinic. Think about offering your clients to book an appointment online or through the mobile app. As over 50% of clients schedule appointments after the clinic hours, offering online booking can be highly beneficial for your business.
Offer to book an appointment in advance
If the patient needs a follow-up appointment, try scheduling it while the client is still in the office. Planning forward ensures that the patient will receive proper care on time, and reminders will help to remember about the appointment.
Scheduling veterinary appointments can be challenging for the clients, as well as for the staff. However, modern technologies present reliable solutions for veterinary practices to deal with such challenges. Establishing a scheduling appointment practice and using various features may give you benefits you’ve never thought of before.