Online Scheduling Becomes a Must-Have for Dental Practices

by Lou Shuman, DMD, CAGS, CEO and Founder of Cellerant Consulting

If you’re depending on patients to call your practice to schedule an appointment, you’re missing out. More people than ever want to be able to book an appointment directly from your website, social media sites, and Google My Business page.

Consider this: Millennials are now entering their 40s. They’re very comfortable with technology and enjoy being able to book everything from restaurants to plane tickets online.

And it’s not just younger generations that like the convenience online scheduling offers. During the pandemic, people of all ages learned how to make online appointments for COVID testing and vaccinations. Now online appointment scheduling is mainstream. Gartner, Inc. predicts 70% of healthcare providers will offer self-scheduling options by the end of this year.

People like being able to make an appointment whenever they remember to do so. Having a “Schedule Now” button on your website lets people take action any time of the day or night. About one-third of online appointments are scheduled when the office is closed, according to the American Dental Association.

Many people prefer to schedule online because it’s faster than making a phone call. They won’t get put on hold or sent to voicemail. And it typically takes less than two minutes to complete the online appointment form.

Plus, they like being able to select their own appointment date and time – and are more likely to keep the appointment. The National Institutes of Health reviewed data from 21 Web-based scheduling systems and discovered online scheduling significantly reduced the no-show rate.

Many dental practice owners resisted the move to online appointment scheduling because they incorrectly believed there wasn’t a way to replicate the scheduling efficiency of their front desk team. Technology has fixed that problem, said Ryan Hungate, DDS, the founder of Simplifeye, a company that specializes in scheduling and front office workflows.

Dr. Hungate recommends dentists choose an online scheduling provider that:

  • Gives the practice complete control over which procedures, providers and operatories can be booked online
  • Integrates with the practice management system in real-time
  • Automatically sends an “Add to your calendar” notification to the patient
  • Offers a 24/7 live chat service that can assist patients who have questions
  • Doesn’t block the front office team from being able to schedule
  • Doesn’t duplicate patient records

Online scheduling is quickly becoming the preferred method for booking appointments. In fact, 77% of patients think having the ability to book online is important, according to a study by Finances Online. It’s no longer a nice-to-have but is now a must-have in order to stay competitive.

About the Author

Lou Shuman, is the CEO of Cellerant Consulting Group, dentistry’s leading corporate incubator and accelerator. He is a venturer in-residence at Harvard’s i-Lab, chairman of the technology advisory board at WEO Media, a member of the Oral Healthadvisory board, and founder of the Cellerant Best of Class Technology Awards.