Make it Simple to Make an Appointment Online

By Justin Bazan, OD

Manage your patients’ online experience to simplify the step that matters most–booking an appointment. Choosing an online portal that provides patient reviews along with self-scheduling can put many more patients in your exam chair.

Editor’s Note: Inthe video below, Dr. Bazan explains that he has replaced his practice web site with his Yelp page as the first point of online contact for patients. However, since the video was shot, he switched to using the practice’s Facebook page for that purpose. The change was necessary after Yelp discontinued its special offer and announcement feature that enabled a “book an appointment” button. The key takeaway from the video remains the same: You will book more exams if you streamline the patient’s online experience with your practice–and make it easy to book an appointment with the click of a button.

When patients type the web address of my practice, Park Slope Eye, into their browser, or look for us with a Google search, something happens that makes their life, and ours, much easier: They are taken directly to the Park Slope Eye Facebook page. For $10, I purchased the “Park Slope Eye” domain name and got all visits to www.parkslopeeye.com to automatically redirect to my practice’s page on Facebook. By making your site your Facebook page, you can streamline your online experience for patients. Otherwise, those same patients may be confused or distracted by multiple online pages for your practice (your practice web site plus all the directory and social networking pages you are featured on).

Most importantly, my Facebook page makes it easy for patients to find what is most important to them and my practice: an easy way of making an appointment. In addition to the ability to immediately book an appointment, patients also get immediate access to Park Slope Eye’s Yelp reviews via a linked Yelp button that takes them directly to our practice’s page on Yelp where they can read reviews or submit one of their own. The positive reviews make it more likely they will book an appointment. Two components make this work: First, consumers avoid web site clutter and see how to make an appointment easily; and, second, they are in an environment with at-a-button access to positive reinforcement from consumer reviews.

“Book Online Instantly”

Patients can click a button on a page that takes them directly to a scheduling page with a calendar to select their preferred date and time, and another selector feature that allows them to choose whether they would like to see me or my associate OD. When they make their selections, and their date and time has been approved, a page automatically appears that asks for patient information including their name and contact information and the reason they are making an appointment.

We recently made a switch to using Facebook as our primary web page after Yelp discontinued its special offer and announcement feature, which had enabled our book-an-appointment button. Before we made that switch, 20 percent of all patients used our Yelp page to make an appointment. We received between 1,000 and 2,000 views of our Yelp page per month. I estimate that our practice gained two patients per day from this Yelp page, resulting in $400 a day, and totaling $120,000 per year (as we’re open 300 days a year; open seven days a year,only closing on major holidays). We expect that trend to continue with our Facebook page, as the primary characteristics remain the same, with–most importantly–patients still able to book an appointment with the click of a button.

Also important is our at-a-click bridge to our reviews on Yelp. Even though we now use Facebook as our main web page, Yelp is so heavily used in our geographic area that we will continue to promote use of it by our patients.

Market Yelp with Patients

To encourage patient reviews, I feature counter cards at the reception desk in my office that let patients know they can find our site on Yelp. I also am sure to mention Yelp whenever I get the chance. When patients ask for local restaurant recommendations, I mention that they can find great listings of restaurants on Yelp and that our practice also happens to be on Yelp. I often will send a link to Yelp to the patient’s smartphone while they are in the office with me to make it easy for them. In addition, I host events in which all patients who are registered users of Yelp get entered into a raffle.

Encourage Patients to Promote Practice

When patients get to the our reception desk, one of the first things they see is a basket with branded lip balm. A sign alongside the basket says to check in on Yelp to get a free lip balm. Patients with smart phones simply click a button that says “check in here” on our Yelp page, and all of their contacts on Facebook and Twitter will be sent an alert that the patient is at Park Slope Eye.

Streamlining your web presence to an online portal where your patients already spend a lot of time makes it more likely they will book appointments. They also are more likely to suggest to their friends that they do the same.

Related ROB Articles

Manage Your Practice Image via Strategic Use of and Response to Online Reviews

Big Changes to Google Places: What it Means to ODs

Is Your Practice’s Web Presence Stuck in the 1990s?

Justin Bazan, OD, Park Slope Eye, Brooklyn, NY, started his own practice cold three years ago. He speaks regularly on strategies for marketing your practice via social networks. Contact: dr.bazan@parkslopeeye.com

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