Patients don’t want online appointments—they want flexibility, control of their healthcare, and care on-demand. In fact, in the urgent care space, many patients don’t actually want to set an appointment at all. Patients love the convenience of dropping in without a reservation and getting in and out quickly.
We concede. Many patients do want online reservations, simply because that’s the way we do things in the 21st century. And while many urgent care clinics are convinced that online appointments are the answer to patient engagement, it’s just not a complete answer.
The key to patient satisfaction is not setting appointments, but setting expectations. Clinics must have an effective way to manage every patient—whether they schedule online or walk in. With the right engagement tools, you provide transparency into the process and actually connect with your patients digitally so they feel in control of their urgent care experience.
And here’s the kicker: When you set patients’ expectations and deliver exceptional patient care, you get the result you’re looking for—loyal customers that feel valued and come back to you when they need urgent care.
Four reasons people don’t want just an online appointment.
1. They want to be seen ASAP.
That’s why they showed up at your urgent care in the first place. The popularity of on-demand care has grown from a small niche market to a big part of healthcare today because of this very idea. Urgent cares see patients in real-time, no matter where they come from. When patients walk in they expect quick service, and if you’re busy, they want to hold a spot in line so they can leave and come back—super convenient, super patient-centered.
Online and in-lobby patient queues show patients their wait time and let them know when to show up for their appointments so they can reduce the time they spend in the waiting room. Managing the line waiting at the desk and streamlining the flow of patients is essential. Managing all your patients is so much easier when you manage them all with one system.
Online scheduling is great, but knowing the actual wait time and the ability to adjust their time for expected delays are more important to them. (Learn more about the Psychology of Waiting.) Patients’ expectations about their wait cause much more anxiety than the actual time they spend in the waiting room. Their uncertainty and the perception of unfairness can result in dissatisfaction with their experience, and eventually unflattering reviews and word of mouth.
2. They want communication.
Today’s consumers expect two-way communication, and technology not only allows them to meet this expectation, but exceeds it by providing a constant stream of connection with products and services—including urgent care. When customers want to see an urgent care provider, it’s essential you’re available with a quick response.
Text alerts are a great way to stay in the communication loop with your patients. Not only do they ensure patient transparency, but they also fulfill your patients’ need to stay connected.
But not all alerts are created equal. Automated communication based on real-time data for walk-ins and online schedulers sets real expectations, so patients show up in the waiting room just in time. It’s better for them and it helps you manage patient flow. They check in. They see the doc. They check out. That’s smooth and satisfying.
If you’re estimating times solely on online registrants or if front desk staff is checking the schedule, guessing the length of appointment delays, and hoping their text is accurate, you run the risk of miscommunication.
Miscommunication can be worse than no communication because it sets an inaccurate expectation for patients and increases dissatisfaction. It may result in patients leaving the office without ever seeing a doctor.
Being proactive and letting patients know if something comes up goes a long way to building trust and goodwill. It demonstrates that you value their time—and it’s just good business.
3. They already have it.
There are so many things people can do online that the novelty has worn off. It’s not new—it’s expected. Offering online scheduling is healthcare’s way of playing catch-up to other industries, and patients sense this. It’s good to offer your patients the convenience of booking their own visits online, when they want, and how they want. But how can you leverage this technology to take engagement a step further?
Your patients understand technology and the convenience and opportunities it provides. An online engagement solution, that does more than replace a phone call, shows them that you understand this, too.
With queue management software that works in real-time, timely text messaging, and post-visit surveys in addition to online appointments, you actually build relationships with patients for the long term. An online appointment lasts a moment. Truly engaged patients last a lifetime.
4. They want extraordinary care.
In the end, patients want to be treated as if they’re your only patient. They want the best care available—and they want it now. It’s up to you to demonstrate their value. One of the best ways to show them is by giving them the opportunity to provide post-visit feedback.
Simple one-question text surveys give them a voice and lets them know you care. The smartest patient engagement solutions differentiate between positive and negative reviews. They also give you the opportunity to run interference when feedback is less than positive. When you follow up an unfavorable survey response with a timely phone call, it reassures your patients that they matter and also discourages negative online reviews.
More and more people are putting their trust in online reviews when choosing where to go for their healthcare needs. Clinics need to stay on top of monitoring their online presence. Having a tool that can help you gauge patient satisfaction is a must.
People don’t just want to schedule an online appointment. They want to fully engage with the businesses they choose to support, including healthcare. Comprehensive patient engagement tools help you set expectations, not just appointments. With real-time patient engagement tools, patients get what they want, and you get what you want—long-term patient relationships.