What is the difference between a request for an appointment, and an actual appointment? How has dental office scheduling evolved over the years? How do you turn visitors into patients while avoiding common pitfalls?
In this episode of Dental Marketing Mastery, we interview Lee Buzard, an NPI advisor and former practice owner, about his experiences.
- The old way appointments were scheduled
- Where do patients go if they cannot schedule?
- The percent of requests that end up in a chair
- The risks of taking shortcuts
- Real appointments vs. requests for appointments
- Onboarding new patients effectively
- Avoiding fake appointment requests
- Online scheduling done wrong
- The importance of email verification
- Appointment-creation redundancies
- Emergency patients
Hello, and Welcome once again to the Dental Marketing Mastery series. This podcast is brought to you by DentalWebContent.com and New Patients Incorporated. I’m Howie Horrocks, the Founder of New Patients Incorporated, along with me once again, as my friend and partner and the President of New Patients Incorporated, Mark Dilatush.
Mark: Hello, everybody. This is Mark Dilatush from New Patients Incorporated. And I know, normally, you hear my partner Howie Horrocks because he’s got a beautiful voice for radio. He’s just got such a wonderful, sultry voice, but you’re not going to hear that sultry voice today it’s because, Howie’s fine, he’s back at the office. He’s busy. Um, I have a special guest Lee Buzzard is one of our senior advisors here. And we had a special subject for a podcast that came up last week rightly Lee?
Lee: Yes sir.
Mark: Okay, so just so we don’t keep the obvious to ourselves. tell everybody what, what you do here or tell everybody what an advisor does.
Lee: So an advisor with New Patients Inc, we gather a lot of information from an inbound request for help from a dental practice. How can I grow my practice? What should I do? And how should I do it? So we jump in there and we start pulling demographics for the area population to dentist ratios, and a ton of other information from the doc we basically get their health history for their dental practice. We evaluate it, we look at the X rays, we hold it up to light and say, Okay, if this was my dental practice, this is what I would do.
Mark: If this was my mom. If you were my sister, this is what I would do for your dental treatment, we basically do the same thing as dentists, do. We just, it’s just different patients. Right?
Mark: Okay, so that’s what advisor does in our subject for today. Because we are hearing this more and more and more, is actually a dovetail podcast from a subject that I think we’ve done at least once, maybe twice, which is about online dental office scheduling, I’m sure everybody or many of you at least is hearing about. You’re hearing from dentists who are using online dental office scheduling, and they’re saying “no, I man, it works great.” And you’re looking at it going, what are you smoking? Like online scheduling I’m afraid of online scheduling. Right?
It’s, it’s not good for me, it’s going to control my schedule. There’s all kinds of crazy, you know, not crazy, but understandable concerns that people have that don’t use the right solution. So now, what’s going on in the dental marketplace is there are vendors who are claiming they do online dental office scheduling. And really what it is it’s basically a it’s kind of it’s a glorified request form, right. And the reason the reason I brought Lee on with for this podcast is because, Lee, what did you do before becoming an NPI advisor?
Lee: Owned a dental practice or two.
Mark: Okay. So, well, actually, Julie would know this, and so would so would Jane, but you have you’ve spent time at the front lines?
Lee: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I’ve been I’ve been on the doc side of the desk, you know, making payroll and supply orders and answering the phone call from sales guys just like you and I, Mark.
Mark: Right. Right. Right. So you know, you’ve been there worn the hat worn the shoes, dealt with all of it right.
Lee: Got the gray hair to prove it.
Mark: Got the gray hair to prove it. So during your tenure I’m sure you’ve taken, you know, calls from patients, right?
Mark: And they wanted to make appointments?
Mark: And did your practices have websites?
Mark: And did those websites have request forms?
Lee: They had online forms. Yes.
Mark: They had online forms. Okay. Because back then, this has been a few years now there was really no such thing as real time online dental office scheduling integration, it was basically a form. Right. So how did these forms work?
Lee: So they would fill out some general brief information, very limiting information, and it came to us as an email, then we would try to track them down.
Mark: Okay, so let’s assume that though, well, I’m not going to assume would, did you get a lot of these during normal hours when they could call you? Or would you get these, you know, when you really you weren’t open?
Lee: I would, well, there was a few during the day, but 9 times out of 10 it was in the evenings, and especially the weekends.
Mark: Right. Okay. Alright, so. So we know, dentists want patients to schedule appointments from their dental office website, we know that because they have request forms. No reason to put a request form on your website, unless you actually want someone to schedule. The problem is, is if they can’t complete the task, then the office gets an email. Right?
Mark: And on that email was what, patient name?
Lee: Yeah name, phone number, chief complaint.
Mark: Chief complaint, maybe their preferred day of the week, maybe the preferred time of the day
Lee: If you were lucky if they filled that part out.
Mark: Okay. All right. Okay. Basically, it was a contact us form. Basically, okay. So the reason why I’m bringing all this up is because now that someone actually has come into the marketplace with a real online dental office scheduling app, that actually works, and adds new patients to the practice of schedule. The imitators are coming through and say, “Hey, wait a second, we have online scheduling.” And some of them, I mean, I’m not, you know, not naming names, but I’m going to say some of them are the same companies that do your emails and confirmations, and maybe your reviews, maybe they do some online reputation for you.
Um, you know, all that stuff is wonderful but when they say they do online dental office scheduling, and you actually really look at it, what you end up with, is the best one, the very best one does look at the doctors schedule from about six hours ago. Because it only sinks three times a day, or four times a day. That’s the best one. Okay. So, so that appointment is available, but the only thing the patient is selecting is an availability. They’re still sending you a form asking you if it’s okay, if they take that, let’s say three o’clock on a Wednesday appointment that right now as of six hours ago was available on your schedule, but we don’t know about it still is or not. And it might be 12 hours before you get to this email notification.
Lee: Mark, you know what I see the problem with that?
Mark: Let’s count the problem.
Lee: I know, I know should we do that alphabetically or numerically. Yeah. But you know when I listened to you talk about that, I think about the old days, I think about the days of you know, when I, you know, had practices and I and think about those online forums. And when an online dental office scheduling is giving you an opportunity for a chance that you might have an appointment at three o’clock on Thursday.
You know, it’s one of those things that it’s like when we had those request forms on our websites back in the day, you know, by the time that you got the email responded to especially from the weekend. And let’s say your team responded to it on Monday, and you called the patient up and said, “Mrs. Jones, hey, we got your email request. You want that appointment at three o’clock on Thursday?” Mrs. Jones most times already made an appointment. And it wasn’t with you.
Mark: Right? Or Mrs. Jones, right has moved on with her life, probably because she already took care of it somewhere else. Right and doesn’t respond to your response.
Mark: We know statistically that I’m actually I just had a mental blank. It’s either 14 or 16% of online appointment requests actually end up, it’s 14% of online appointment requests actually end up as a body in a chair. That means 86% don’t.
Lee: That’s a big number.
Mark: That’s a huge number. So what we’re saying to you the audience is, is online scheduling isn’t the same anywhere. There’s a request form. There’s a semi automated request form. And then there’s LocalMed online dental office scheduling. It’s just there’s, it’s like, bad, really bad and oh my god, this is great. Like there’s no there’s nothing in between because you can’t mess with. You gotta do that, right?
You can’t take shortcuts, you can’t have a request form. And, you can’t sink every six hours. That’s insane. What if, what if the patient just put in a request for three o’clock on Wednesday, and Mary at your front desk an hour from now books an appointment at three o’clock next Wednesday? Or here’s a scenario, what if it’s the weekend? And what if you had an opening on Monday, and the scheduler read that and the opening happen to be 9am your first hour and by the time you come in, see that patient thinks they’re making, They don’t think they’re making a request. They’re thinking they’re making an appointment, that’s what they want to do? Well, sooner or later, you end up with somebody on your doorstep at 9am that you don’t recognize. You don’t know who they are.
Lee: And even worse, you have two people standing at your front desk. One, the one that had the appointment, and the one that thought they had the appointment.
Mark: Exactly, exactly. So you know what, Lee, let’s take a break. And let’s go when we get back, let’s go through some other scenarios to help the audience understand how well this has to be done in order to do what they want it to do.
Lee: Let’s do it.
Mark: All right. We’ll be right back.
Hey, Mark, I hear we’ve got the hottest product since electronic claim submissions. Is that true? Howie that is true, and let’s not keep it a secret. Okay. So what we’re talking about everyone is on online scheduling. It’s real time online scheduling integration between your practices website, no matter who you got your website from, and your practice management software, and it will absolutely 100% add more new patients add additional existing patient appointments to everyone’s scheduling system that’s listening to this podcast, we have, I think we have it’s I think it’s 98.8% compliance, meaning 98.8% of the people ever installed are still using it and benefiting from it.
This is not a fad, this is not a dream. This is not something that new patients will avoid. They love it, they love the convenience of being able to do this. If you want to take a look at it, send us an email, Howie and I. Or you can actually log on to New Patients Inc, and get this, you can actually schedule an appointment to see it right from our website. Imagine that. So do not hesitate to take a look at this and get it integrated into your office, you will absolutely get more out of advertising every advertising dollar you spend.
Mark: Okay, we’re back, we were talking with Lee Buzzard, Senior Advisor here at New Patients Inc and now Lee is has owned dental practices before and sat behind the owners chair and listened to the phone calls, got the request forms understands how patients schedule, forget, then schedule again and forget and they kind of drive you nuts. And so he’s been on the front lines before, I wanted to pull him in on this podcast to talk about the difference between real time online scheduling a real product a really refined properly done product and what some of their competitors are calling online dental office scheduling. And in the first half of this podcast, we discussed it as the differences would be like a request form. I think everybody listening to this podcast probably has an appointment request form on their dental practice website. Right?
Mark: Okay. So when you when you have someone come to you a vendor, and they say, well, we do online dental scheduling, we want you to be educated and look very closely at it, and make sure that it actually is going to do what it’s supposed to do and not create more problems then it’s worth. Now, before the break we were talking about, you know, what happens if somebody makes an appointment over the weekend, and it’s for Monday morning, and you already had somebody there because the platform only syncs every six hours. And all of a sudden you have what you have two patients sitting in your office at 9am. Right?
Mark: For the same time hair for the same provider. Right? Easily. Um, there’s also, there’s also the issue of having to reach back out to the customer in order to close the deal. Now, let me be very clear, all of our online dental office scheduling clients, we always recommend they call the patient, preferably the minute that they’re on your website, finishing making their appointment, to welcome them to the practice and onboard them.
So we’re not saying that you get online dental scheduling to get rid of phone calls. That’s not what we’re saying. What we’re saying is, is that from a patient’s perspective, when they go to reach out to do something, here’s a good example, a plane ticket. If you went online to United dot com, and you put a flight request form in and you had to wait a certain period of time to see if you could get your seat on that flight nobody listening to this podcast would book another airline ticket online, you wouldn’t do it, it doesn’t make any sense. You can’t get the task done.
Lee: No you whenever you want everything in live time, I mean, you know Mark, you and I travel a lot. And when we travel, sometimes flights change weather and whatever. And we want we need to move our flights in lifetime. So what do we do, we grab our phones or our laptop or tablet. And we’re literally moving that appointment in live time making that adjustment making that appointment to get where we need to go.
Mark: Right. So that’s the way it’s supposed to work. So when Mom, it’s eight o’clock and a Friday evening, get a chance to sit back a little glass of wine, three or four of these leftover tasks for the week. Mom doesn’t want to start to finish a task. Mom wants to finish the task, okay? She doesn’t want to put a request form in knowing that she’s going to get a call back on Monday. And by that time, it’s going to be another task for next week.
Mom wants to make the call and get the task completed. Now, now from the practices standpoint, can you think of some other ways this was I can think of several ways online scheduling, not done right could be evil. Let me give you an example. Um, let’s say it doesn’t verify the email address of the person making the appointment.
Lee: Oh, don’t say it’s not true. Are you saying that a Doc down the road, if I had a practice and Dr. Mark and saw my online scheduling, would you really would you really make nine appointments for Monday that weren’t real?
Mark: Or a five year old with a Sony PlayStation. I mean, it doesn’t matter they could do that.
Lee: Oh, yeah, that’s right.
Mark: Right. Hey, let’s go even further. Let’s just let’s not say its sinister, let’s say it’s just a forgetful patient. And, you know, sometimes patients forget. And they make the same appointment. Or they make, you know, an appointment twice for the same thing. So I forgot I made that appointment already. I forgot. Okay, well, is your platform smart enough to warn the person that they already have an appointment? Is your platform smart enough to let them know that their son or their daughter or their husband has an appoint? Is your platform smart enough to show Mom all of them so she can manage everything in one place nice and easy on her phone?
Lee: For transportation.
Mark: In her sweat pants on her sofa at nine o’clock at night on a Friday? Okay, there are so many bad things that can happen to a dental practice through an underdeveloped online dental office scheduling platform that it makes the real one look kind of amazing. Right?
Lee: It’s the difference between sending all the Met Life forms in one big fat envelope on Friday with a stamp and sending them through electronic claims.
Mark: Exactly. Right. Exactly.
Lee: I remember those days.
Mark: Hey, here, hey, here’s another one. I got another one for you. Um, what happens if the lights go out? What happens if my server goes down? What happens if my internet connection is broken? And, what if someone was making an appointment online right now? And they lost connection to the server? What would happen? I can tell you what would happen. You’d have two people in the same room for the same provider and people will be scrambling around at your front desk.
But not if it’s done. Right. Right. So we have people out there vendors out there who are scrambling trying to figure out how to compete with local meds online dental office scheduling app, and they can’t. They’re calling these glorified request forums online scheduling. So the purpose of this pod this podcast. If we save your front desk, if we save one front desk person, from experiencing having two or three or more people coming in at the same time on the same day for the same provider. Or you can go the other way too. If it doesn’t make the appointment with the right day in the right time in the right provider and doesn’t confirm it properly and doesn’t confirm the email address.
And if it’s not convenient for that mom or that consumer, they’re not going to value it. I mean, there. I don’t know from I’ve been in dentistry now for 20, 20, whatever eight years, nine years. And the difference between doing it right and doing it improperly as it pertains to this subject is so, it’s like the Grand Canyon. It’s amazing how wide and how deep those problems can be. If it’s not done, right. But then if it’s done, right, how deep and how wonderful the benefit is.
Lee: Well, let’s talk let’s talk about some of the benefits like it about how about, I make an appointment online with my dentist, and he has a local med connect, and I made my appointment online, and it’s I don’t know, eight o’clock at night, and his phone buzzes because he just got a text or email notification that I just made that appointment. How cool is that?
Mark: it’s, it’s, it’s really cool. If I actually we ran into this scenario, had a client or have a client and they were going to come in late instead of eight in the morning. They were going to come in at nine in the morning, because there were no patients at eight. And they got two patients at eight over the weekend. They were emergencies, you know, you know how everybody’s tooth starts to hurt on Friday evening. It’s amazing how that works, right?
Mark: But they had two emergency appointments come in at eight o’clock in the morning. Now they didn’t block their schedule, they just agreed that everybody would have an hour extra on Monday morning because they had no patients scheduled. Well, there you go. Practice gets notification two appointments in the schedule eight in the morning, everybody on the whole team gets the notification. Everybody shows up at eight in the morning ready to go. But without that, you know who’s you know, who’s standing on the steps eight in the morning, two emergency patient. Okay. Nobody showed up until nine. You see?
Lee: Well, but they’re not standing there long, because then they’re on the phone doing a quick search of someone else.
Mark: Right. So anyway, um, no, that’s, that’s a very, that’s a very good example here here’s our point. The point to take away from is if you’re going to do this, and this is, I don’t know, 3 or 4000 practices in the US so far, there’s 10s of thousands of practices that need to do this. So choose your own time and it doesn’t have to be this week, this month or this year. Obviously you benefit more by being the early adopter, then the middle adopter, that’s up to you. But when you do this, take the time to look. Takes what, when you when, Lee, when you show somebody, when you show somebody, the online dental scheduling, how long does it take you?
Lee: It takes me about six minutes to demo.
Mark: Come on. Okay, you can’t show it in six minutes.
Lee: Okay. It doesn’t take long. Okay. I mean, it really doesn’t take long it goes by really fast. What takes more time is the doc tell me all the ways that they can use this, they’re excited about. So I mean, to do the demo that are now it’s not long, maybe 15 minutes.
Mark: 15, 20 minutes, right? Over an internet meeting, like over a lunch?
Lee: Yeah, over lunch. Started of the day of the day. I mean, it’s super, super quick.
Mark: Okay. So if the listeners out there if you are interested, and you all get traffic to your websites, and everybody listening to this wants that traffic to convert into a patient that that’s those are both truths okay. 99% of you have a request form so. So we know you want appointments made on your website already, you can’t hide it. So if anybody listening to this wants to actually look at this, even if you don’t get it now, just look at it. That way you’ll know. So when it it’s not a matter of if you’re going to adapt to online dental appointment scheduling integration with your practice management software really isn’t it’s really a matter of when the way this is being adapted to now.
And the way the growth is now, this is going growing, like the old days with the electronic insurance claims the way that grew in popularity over just a period of a few short years. So it’s not a matter of “if” it’s a matter of “when.” So if you have 20 minutes, you know, give them a call or give us a call or an email or whatever. And we’ll just show it to you. And then you choose when. But if you’re like 90% of the people who look at it, you’re a little nervous at the beginning. And then at the end of this six minutes, you’re like, oh, that wasn’t bad. Yeah, no, it’s pretty cool. So Lee, thank you very much for sharing your heyday of your heyday of owning dental practice. I’m sure you’re happier guy now.
Lee: Oh, no, it was good. Something I’d like to leave with all the listeners with is, is we believe in this online dental appointment scheduling 100%. And we believe in it so much that, you know, Mark said email us or call us. But you can go to our website, our website, and guess what schedule a demo online with us at. Yeah, I mean, you can schedule with us, you know, because we believe in it.
You know, we’re not just selling this, you know, we use this and so, you know, there’s so many times that my current clients, potential clients, he’ll schedules myself or Mark or anybody else on the team, you’ll talk to us because it’s convenient to them in the evenings or whenever to say I want to talk to Lee at eight o’clock in the morning. Get on to my online calendar. They look. Yep, he’s open. Click, done.
Mark: Right. Yeah. So it’s really easy to schedule the time. Take a look. And then and then then when your other vendor, whoever’s doing your emails, and your confirmation says, we do online dental appointment scheduling, at least you have something real to compare it against. Right, and I think you’re going to find what we’ve been telling everyone and what we’ve already found is we’ve already vetted everybody else’s system, and we’re telling you, they’re all on a scale from 1 to 10. They’re all a 2 and LocalMed Connect as a 10. So Lee, thank you very much, sir.
Lee: Yes sir my pleasure.
Mark: Let’s all go back to work and think of something wonderful for next week’s podcast.
Mark: Alright. Thanks. Thanks, everybody.