How To Craft An Effective Appointment Confirmation Message (+ Examples)

How To Craft An Effective Appointment Confirmation Message (+ Examples)

Have you ever ordered something online and worried when you didn’t receive a confirmation message? The payment went through but there was no message from the store confirming they received your purchase.

Thousands of questions began flooding your mind. Will you get the order? Will they charge your card twice because they haven’t seen your purchase? 

If these thoughts are running through your mind, imagine what your patients think when they don’t receive a confirmation message from you.

There’s a big difference between an appointment confirmation message and an appointment reminder. An appointment confirmation message is sent immediately after a patient schedules an appointment to ensure the details are correct and to provide any other relevant information. But appointment reminders are sent consistently until the date of the appointment so that patients are less likely to miss their appointments. 

So, what should you include in an appointment confirmation message? Before we answer this question, let’s look closely at the steps in the appointment confirmation process.

What is the Appointment Confirmation Process?

When you don’t have an appointment confirmation process, the chances of more patient no-shows at appointments increases. It’s been estimated that patient no-shows cost the healthcare industry $150 billion annually. Here’s a seven-step process that you can use so that your business doesn’t unnecessarily lose money.

  1. Ensure patient records are up-to-date. Patients could be missing confirmation messages because they’re being sent to the wrong places.
  1. Work with your team to ensure they understand the appointment setting process. The appointment confirmation message is sent at the end of the process but it won’t work well if your appointment setting process is flawed.
  1. Send both text and email confirmations. Using both forms of communication increases the chances of reaching your patient.
  1. Personalize the message. You can use a template but fill that template with information that’s unique to the patient.
  1. Educate patients about the value of the visit. You know this well as a healthcare practice owner — no-shows often need more expensive emergency care later on. The appointment confirmation message provides a great way to motivate your patients to be proactive.
  1. Send a follow-up message explaining next steps once the patient has confirmed. This would be a good time to tell patients to expect a series of appointment reminders. You would also use this follow-up message to explain your process and allow the patient to ask questions. Your aim is to ease the patient’s concerns so that the appointment flows smoothly.
  1. Send appointment reminder messages.
    • One message per week if the appointment is far in advance. 
    • One message at least five days before the appointment.
    • One message three days before the appointment.
    • A final message 24 hours before the appointment.

How to Create an Effective Email Appointment Confirmation Message

Emails tend to be the go-to mode of communication for healthcare practice owners who’re trying to reach out to patients. But there’s a right and a wrong way to send email confirmation messages. This section explains how you can create them the right way. But first, let’s dive into why an email appointment confirmation message is important.

Why is an Email Appointment Confirmation Message Important?

  • Your patients won’t feel anxious about not knowing whether their appointment was confirmed.
  • You can get patients into your email marketing funnel where you further nurture your relationship with them even after the appointment.
  • There’s more space in an email to share information and provide options to reschedule or cancel the appointment.
  • There are more opportunities for you to use your branding and create attractive content.

How Should an Email Appointment Confirmation Message be Structured?

An email appointment confirmation message has four parts.

The Sender’s Name

  • This is the first thing the patient will see.
  • You could use your business email address but that may be unfamiliar to the patient and result in the email being overlooked.
  • Say something like, “Dr. Han from The Mayo Clinic” instead.

The Subject Line

  • The email subject is directly underneath the patient’s name so it’s the second thing the patient will notice.
  • Get to the point by saying something like, “Confirming your appointment on [date and time]”.

The Preview Text

  • The preview text is the first two sentences that appear underneath the subject line. It’s often used as a way to further encourage the patient to open the email.
  • Most email marketing tools will allow you to write your own preview text, others just use the first two sentences within the body of the email.
  • Write something warm and inviting. The patient may already be nervous about the appointment so this is your opportunity to help ease those fears.
  • Example: “We’re looking forward to seeing you! Here’s what you can do to prepare.”

The Content

  • This is the meat of the matter. 
  • This is where you’ll provide details about the service the client paid for, the amount paid, and when and where the appointment will take place. If it’s a virtual appointment, provide the meeting link. 
  • Use the email to provide tips the patient can use to prepare for the appointment.
  • Include links to any documents or contracts the patient needs to sign.
  • Express that appointment reminders will be sent. You don’t have to say when, but make the patient aware that they’ll be sent.
  • Include a CTA to confirm the accuracy of the details, as well as the option to cancel or reschedule and relevant contact information for your healthcare practice.

Mistakes to Avoid When Creating and Sending Appointment Confirmation Emails

  • Asking for sensitive information. Patients should be discouraged from sharing sensitive information via email.
  • Sending emails to multiple recipients. You run the risk of patients seeing other patients’ email addresses. Also, you won’t be sending a personalized message.
  • Forgetting to double-check the recipient’s email address before sending. You don’t want to send the email to the wrong person!
  • Using complex medical terms. Craft the email in a way the patient will understand.
  • Offering medical advice without first seeing the patient. Sure, you may offer tips to help the patient prepare for the appointment based on the issues the patient has shared. But that doesn’t mean you should offer concrete medical advice. 

Appointment Confirmation Message Sample for Emails

Sender: Dr. X from [Name of Healthcare Practice]

Subject: Confirming your appointment on [Date and Time]

Preview Text: We’re looking forward to seeing you! Here’s what you can do to prepare.

Hi [First Name],

You recently scheduled an appointment for [Date and Time]. The appointment has been confirmed and will be held at [Location]. Please reply to this email if you’d like to cancel or reschedule the appointment.

We know that you’re experiencing discomfort and we want to help you through this difficult situation. You expressed that you’re struggling with [insert details of the condition here]. Dr. X is ready to provide the treatment you need. 

Some appointment reminders will be sent over the next few weeks via email and text. So, you can look out for those. In the meantime, here are some tips to help you prepare for the appointment:

[Insert relevant tips.]

[Include links to a secure HIPAA compliant portal where the patient can share and sign any related documents.]

See you soon,

The Team at [Name of Healthcare Practice]

How to Create an Effective Appointment Confirmation Text Message

Text messages are often more effective ways to communicate with patients than emails. A recent study shows that text messages receive a 90% engagement rate and help patients feel more connected to healthcare teams. Also, a study by Luma Health revealed that patients are more likely to respond to text messages with these messages having a 52% response rate when compared to 28% and 26% for email and phone reminders, respectively.

That’s why we’ve included text messages as part of this appointment confirmation message guide. You shouldn’t depend solely on email confirmation messages, especially if you want to keep your appointments filled and reduce the risk of no-shows.

So, let’s dive into how you can create an effective appointment confirmation text message. 

What Should an Appointment Confirmation Text Message Include?

  • Date, time, and location of the appointment
  • A CTA to confirm the accuracy of the details
  • The option to cancel or reschedule
  • Relevant contact information for your healthcare practice

Mistakes to Avoid When Sending Appointment Confirmation Text Messages

  • Not using the right SMS tool. There are a variety of tools available including Podium, Text Sanity, and OpenPhone.
  • Forgetting to include the customer’s name. Sure, you’re sending an automated text message but excluding the customer’s name will make it impersonal.

Appointment Confirmation Message Sample for Text Messages

Hi [First Name]. This is [Name of Healthcare Practice] confirming your appointment on [Date and Time] at [Location]. Please reply with a “yes” to confirm. Click here [include relevant link] to cancel or reschedule.

Use Scheduling Software to Create the Best Appointment Confirmation Messages 

Whether you’re sending messages via email or phone, it can become quite tedious to keep tabs on these messages for each patient. Did the patient receive the message? Where is the patient’s response?  Things will start getting lost and confusing pretty quickly. 

Scheduling software makes it easier to automate the process. The Smiledog team helps healthcare practice owners using tools like Jane App for efficient patient communication, including sending appointment confirmation messages. All you have to do is upload the messages you want to use in the app and our team will ensure they’re sent to your patients at the right time. 

Appointment Confirmation Messages Should Be a Natural Part of Your Appointment Setting Process

Appointment no-shows impact your bottom line. They also create greater problems for their own long-term health and well-being. Making appointment confirmation messages a natural part of your appointment setting process can help you reduce the risk of no-shows and keep your patients happy.

Smiledog has a team of virtual receptionists who are experienced with appointment setting and ensure your messages are delivered exactly when needed and with an added human touch.   Grow your healthcare practice with our appointment setting service.

4 Things I Learned From Therapy That Can Help Shape Your Leadership Skills in Business and Life

4 Things I Learned From Therapy That Can Help Shape Your Leadership Skills in Business and Life

The choice to go to therapy was one of the hardest things I have ever done because it forced me to face the reality that I needed some help. Letting go of my ego and choosing to be vulnerable with someone I didn’t know ended up being the best decision of my life. 

You see, the thing about therapy is that by facing what’s happening internally, you’re indirectly affecting every relationship you have around you. Making the commitment to understand more about yourself and how you process your emotions will help you:

  1. Better articulate your thoughts and feelings.
  2. Better recognize emotional cues.
  3. Create a healthier inner monologue.
  4. Create room for all of your emotions.

Learning more about how to apply these things in my everyday life by looking at my deepest emotional triggers helped me realize that we are all actually looking for similar things:

  • Financial security and freedom.
  • Deeper connections with friends and partners.
  • More quality time with our families.
  • Ways to keep our creative sides alive.
  • Time to take care of our health.

Although we all crave similar things, what’s different for each of us is the path we take to get there. That’s what makes everyone’s story unique, and that, for me, might be one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned when it comes to leadership. 

Anyone who starts a business is taking on a leadership role, whether they know it or not. The long-term success of every business is determined by how well everyone is aligned with the company’s vision, and I believe going to therapy is one of the best things any business owner can do to ensure that vision’s success. Business is all about the successful organization of people, and you can’t lead others well until you’re happy with yourself. 

So today I wanted to share with you some of the most important things I have taken away from my therapy. Hopefully, they give you some insight into where you are struggling and inspire you to make the investment to talk to someone too.

Better Articulate Your Thoughts and Feelings

One of the most important skills a leader has is the ability to communicate. The work you do in therapy is directly related to this. It helps you understand how your emotions are attached to your thoughts and how you can best say what you want to convey.

For example, in my experience, I always used to react before I thought because I was letting emotion take the lead in how I was communicating. More often than not, that emotion was related to something personal that triggered me and I would take it out on the person in front of me. 

Through therapy, I have been able to face those deeper triggers and allow more room for the emotions attached to them. This has made a huge impact for me on how I communicate with everyone in my life. I can create a space to feel the emotion before I react, which gives me more time to think about how I can better respond or handle the situation.

This has done wonders for me in my ability to communicate with a lot of different people because I now have a safe space for my emotions that doesn’t get in the way of getting through the true problem with other people. 

I have by no means perfected this yet, but I am working on it every day and have learned to accept that it will always be a work in progress.

Better Recognize Emotional Cues

This is something I see so much more in others now because I learned how to see and feel my own emotional cues during my therapy. 

For example, anger tends to rise within the body. So if you are having a conversation with someone and see them taking a big, deep, and swift chest breath, that could be their body’s reaction to some anger they’re feeling. 

Sadness can show up in many different ways. You can see it in someone’s eyes if they’ve stopped looking at you as they begin to well up. The way someone holds their mouth; biting their lip to stop it from quivering; a shift in their breathing as if they can’t seem to get enough oxygen as they breathe. The tone of their voice could be shifting as they’re trying to hold the sadness in their throat so you can’t hear it.

Happiness is generally the easiest to spot as you can feel the warmth from someone’s smile or the roar of their genuine laughter.

More often than not, though, when we start to feel those negative emotions, our anxiety creeps in. It’s as if a thick layer of fog has begun to set in, making it impossible to navigate and really feel what emotion is actually rising up for us. This can make it extremely difficult to communicate effectively with someone. 

By developing an understanding of your own emotional cues in therapy, you can create much more awareness and patience for the cues of other people. Sometimes having the ability to just sit with them is powerful enough to make an impact. Simply letting their emotions be present from that emotional cue you noticed can be the difference between making a real connection with that person or them disassociating more because you’re talking over what they’re feeling.

As a business owner, ensuring your team feels heard and listened to is crucial to creating trust. A team with an open dialogue that can have difficult conversations about the real issues is going to create a thriving work environment. I know only from my experience but having a tougher real conversation always feels better afterward than the ones where you skimmed the surface and neither of you said what was really going on. 

Create a Healthier Inner Monologue

The way I talked to myself before I started therapy was easily the most toxic thing I would do to myself on a regular basis. It destroyed how I viewed myself. I know so many friends and colleagues who have similar tendencies and they choose to just push through, which is okay, but burnout is inevitable with that route.

There is you and there is the version of you in your head. Sometimes they seem to always be at odds. But I started to notice that after a few months of therapy, I could see those “two people” less and less at odds.

I could feel the two versions of myself getting more in sync with each other and my confidence growing. The dread I was feeling about the future of our business seemed to go away. I was no longer always asking myself: 

“Do I really want to do this forever?” or “Is this actually what I love doing?”.

The idea of running this particular business was no longer the focus but rather what the outcome of running this business can do for me. For the lucky few business owners, they found a way to monetize their passion. But for a lot of us, we build them out of the need to support our families and create some financial stability with the hope that someday our business will give us the freedom to choose our family first.

My inner monologue no longer dictates the outcome of my day. It now serves as my guide, making sure I stay on the path of where I want to go.

For many business owners the internal battle is the toughest part. Winning against yourself is where real success can come from. Doing that is a lot easier said than done but one piece of advice I would give is to find other business owners in your local area. Whether it’s through networking or local events, you would be surprised how much entrepreneurship there is around you and how willing the community is to help each other. A little vulnerability among your peers can go a long way in helping you get outside of your own head and not feel so isolated.

Create Room for All Your Emotions

Another huge turning point for me during my therapy was realizing that everyone needs to create a space for each one of their unique emotions because you can’t have one without the other. What I mean by that is our happiness isn’t really a destination that you stay at forever. It is a number of different moments we experience throughout our lives and those moments pass. Once they are over, there will always be another emotion to take its place.

For me, realizing that I can’t have happiness without sadness or anger has actually made me a happier person overall. I can appreciate more moments in my life for what they are instead of for what I wish them to be.

As a business owner, there are an endless number of moments where our emotions can overwhelm us and it can feel like a deserted island with no help in sight. But therapy can help provide you with an internal skill set that will help you create space for everything you feel.

We are all happy, sad, angry, and fearful, all at the same time. Therapy can help give you a better regulator to know when you’re feeling what and why.

What does this ultimately mean for your business?

Simply put, all businesses are a collection of people working together toward a common goal. So business is really about becoming a master of communication. The thing is, you can’t become a master of communication for everyone else. You can only master it for yourself and form your own perspective. 

Becoming clearer with your thoughts and feelings, recognizing your own emotional cues, strengthening your inner monologue, and creating some space for everything you feel are all personal journeys. By doing the tough work with yourself, you will undoubtedly create an impact on every relationship in your life. 

If there is one thing you can take away from this, it is that you don’t need to separate your work and personal life. When you own a business you can’t separate it. The business is part of you and it affects every part of your life and that is okay. Just like with your emotions, you can’t have one without the other. So it’s about balance and creating a safe place for them everywhere in your life. 

Therapy will help teach how to balance everything within you, and once you can do this, everything around you will follow.

Thanks so much for reading. And if you’re looking for some additional info you can apply to your business today, check out this post we did highlighting our wins during the pandemic that allowed to us to keep growing: From One Business Owner to Another: How to Ensure Your Business Survives Any Curveball Thrown Its Way

The Doctor is In: How the Metaverse is Impacting Healthcare

The Doctor is In: How the Metaverse is Impacting Healthcare

The global telehealth market will potentially be worth $459.8 billion by 2030. If Mark Zuckerberg has his way, the metaverse will be well advanced by then and actively contributing to this number.

You’ll no longer be looking at a patient talking to you in real-life on a Zoom call. Instead, you’ll be interacting with a 3D avatar and creating virtual simulations as viable treatment options. 

The metaverse is the way of the future and it’s important for you to know as much as you can about it so that you can be prepared to take your healthcare practice to the next level. 

This article explains everything you need to know about the metaverse, what it will possibly look like, and how it’s likely to change telehealth.

But first, let’s go down memory lane and look more closely at the history of telehealth. 

A Brief History of Telehealth 

Telehealth has been an important part of healthcare for decades with demand for it increasing because of the peculiarities of the COVID-19 pandemic. To put things in context from a pandemic perspective — research published by the Rand Corporation revealed that “only 22 percent of Canadian primary care facilities reported offering patients the option to directly communicate by email or secure website about a medical question.” Things changed at the peak of the pandemic when “60 percent of consultations between patients and primary care physicians in Canada were held virtually.”

Percentage of virtual consultations between patients and primary care physicians in Canada.

Looking at how telehealth evolved over time helps paint a clearer picture of how the metaverse will impact the sector’s growth moving forward. Here’s a brief history of telehealth. 

Timeline of Telehealth History

We’ve moved from two-way video consultations via TV setups to having secure healthcare appointments via Zoom to now having virtual treatment rooms in the metaverse. Technology is rapidly changing the way healthcare professionals provide patient care!   

Facebook nearly broke the internet last year with its name change and announcement of a shifted focus to building the metaverse, an alternate reality many believe will be the successor to the modern internet.  Mark Zuckerberg believes that the metaverse will become mainstream within the next five to 10 years. And Bloomberg supports his theory by predicting that the metaverse may be an $800 billion market by 2024

With all the hype surrounding the metaverse, we need to understand what it is, whether it’s something that will truly become mainstream, and what this means for telehealth moving forward.  

What is the Metaverse and How Does it Work?

The metaverse is an alternative universe where virtual reality and augmented reality combine to simulate a real-world immersive experience, regardless of where people are located. 

When you enter the metaverse, you’re given a virtual presence that allows you to interact with other people and even pay for goods and services using cryptocurrencies. Each metaverse platform has its own cryptocurrency.  

There are already three prominent metaverse platforms: Sandbox, Mirandus, and Decentraland. But these metaverse platforms focus heavily on gaming, creative expression, and social interaction. The closest metaverse-like experiences in healthcare so far come from companies such as XR Health, BehavaVR, Tripp, and AppliedVR.

How Will the Metaverse Matter to Your Healthcare Practice?

Some people believe the metaverse is a far-reaching concept. For now, it seems to be a digital world perfect for avid gamers. But Tiernan Ray, founder of The Technology Letter, believes that the metaverse as a virtual world where we carry out things we would normally do in the real world won’t become reality. 

The real question becomes — what if the metaverse succeeds? How will its success impact healthcare? We can’t say with 100% certainty what will happen but we can suggest the outlook for healthcare in the metaverse based on current trends.

The Pros of the Metaverse for Healthcare

  1. There’ll be a new way to collaborate.

Instead of meeting other healthcare professionals for Zoom consultations, your 3D metaverse avatars can meet to discuss treatment plans and test new medical technology. Whether you’ll prefer this 3D experience to seeing a real person on a Zoom call is debatable. 

  1. Training is likely to become easier in this virtual space.

Brandon Doyle, Director of Sales and Marketing at Smiledog, believes that the biggest impact the metaverse will have on healthcare is the training and education of healthcare professionals. 

Quote from Brandon Doyle, Director of Sales and Marketing

The metaverse will make it easier to perform surgical simulations, diagnostic imaging, patient care management, rehabilitation, and health management, which will also make it easier to educate healthcare students globally about best practices in these areas. 

  1. Virtual diagnoses will be easier to make.

The immersive nature of the metaverse makes it easier for healthcare professionals in the mental health space, such as therapists and psychologists, to provide deeply therapeutic patient experiences. These healthcare professionals can simulate environments that help address phobias, PTSD, autism, neuro-visual disorders, and many other mind-related conditions. It will also be easier to simulate treatment possibilities before making decisions about the course of care. 

The Cons of the Metaverse for Healthcare

  1. Data protection concerns will increase. 

Research conducted by Kaspersky revealed five core problems with telehealth: 

  • Patient data leaks
  • Poor understanding of data protection
  • Unsuitable software
  • Diagnostic errors because of technology’s limitations
  • Legacy operating systems leaving networks open to attack

These concerns will only increase as the metaverse becomes mainstream. People will be freely giving away copious amounts of data and will be tracked more intimately in the metaverse. Albert “Skip” Rizzo, Director for medical virtual reality at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies, said it well in this quote, “People tend to suspend disbelief and let their guards down even more when they put on a VR headset. Without adequate privacy protections, moving through this virtual space will be kind of like having a drone following you around in real life, monitoring everything you do, and then passing that information on to whoever.”

  1. It’s difficult to replicate in-person customer service in a virtual space.

No matter how hard you try, it will be difficult to replicate the in-person feel of an appointment in any virtual space. This is particularly true for small healthcare practice owners who don’t have the resources to invest in the technological infrastructure and team required for a seamless metaverse experience. 

What Will Virtual Appointments Look Like in the Metaverse?

XR Health provides a great example of what virtual appointment setting will look like in the metaverse.

Step #1: The patient completes a short survey so that the system identifies her specific problem.

Step #2: The patient speaks with a virtual receptionist who will help her schedule a video evaluation appointment.

Step #3: Ensure your patient gets the right equipment for the appointment.

Step #4: Engage with the patient during the appointment and develop a treatment plan. 

You and your patient enter the metaverse and have a discussion (following best practices for virtual appointments). After learning more about the patient, you develop a treatment plan that will probably involve both in-person and metaverse type interventions.  

Metaverse or Not, Smiledog is Here to Help You Set Your Virtual Appointments.

Brandon also expressed his thoughts on virtual appointments in the metaverse.

We are a ways off from the metaverse being a budget-friendly and commercially available option for small businesses and clinics. BUT I see it every day, clinics are going virtual and I think the key to the metaverse and healthcare will be who figures out how to best keep ‘the human touch’ alive. It’s not the metaverse that changes everything but who figures out how to create the connection within it.

Your patients will always need that human connection, metaverse avatar or not. The Smiledog team is here to help you provide the best quality patient care through virtual receptionist services with a smile. Whether you choose to be part of the metaverse or not, we’re here to fulfill your virtual receptionist needs

12 Healthcare Practice Owners Share Their Number One Tip For Growth

12 Healthcare Practice Owners Share Their Number One Tip For Growth

There’s a lot of information online about how to build a successful medical practice. 

But what about healthcare practice owners who aren’t physicians? What healthcare practice tips can you get that aren’t the same ol’ generic responses?

This article answers that question. We created it specifically for you by pulling insights from 12 non-physician healthcare practice owners, including insights from a survey we sent to Smiledog’s customers. Side Note: Our customers shared their advice anonymously so any thoughts we share from them won’t include their names. 

Here’s what we’re not telling you….

We’re not telling you to work seven days a week consistently looking for new ways to bring in clients. That’s an unsustainable (and very draining) process. Instead, the advice we’re sharing will help you achieve work-life harmony while running a successful healthcare business.

Let’s begin!

1. Be clear on your boundaries, goals, and who you serve.

boundaries illustration
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

One of the chiropractors who participated in our survey has over 100 patients per month and achieved that success through implementing good systems. Here’s what he had to say about healthcare practice growth, “Be clear on your boundaries, goals, and who you serve.” 

We’ll discuss boundaries in the next point. For now, let’s dissect his suggestions for implementing good systems, being clear about your goals, and being clear about who you serve. 

  • Good systems for your healthcare practice include clear processes for onboarding new patients, following up with existing patients, and providing the best possible standard of care to all your patients. These processes should be clear to all members of your team so that all your patients have consistently good experiences.
  • Be clear about your goals. One of the most popular goal-setting strategies is SMART goal setting where goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Work with your team to create SMART long-term and short-term goals for your practice that align with your brand’s values. You can also use a goal-tracking app to monitor goal progress, break goals into manageable daily tasks, and assign tasks to specific team members.
  • Be clear about who you serve. You should be as specific as possible about your target audience. Specificity helps you attract the right patients and charge premium prices for your services.  We’ll discuss this further in the tip about reframing how you position yourself to potential patients.

2. Although your patients are your priority, it’s important to protect yourself from burnout and compassion fatigue.

It’s in your very nature to give your patients 100% at all times, even if that means extending yourself outside of office hours. You feel deep compassion and empathy towards their circumstances and want to do everything you can to help them. That’s what makes you a great healthcare practice owner but it’s also what allows compassion fatigue and burnout to start creeping in.

Zachary Lui, leading expert in Eastern metaphysics and owner of Wuji Xuan Life Wellness and Spiritual Performance Center, shared some interesting thoughts about compassion during a podcast interview,

healthcare practice growth tip

You aren’t giving your patients the best standard of care when you overextend yourself and have few, if any, boundaries. You’re overworked, tired, and not being present with your loved ones. Here’s what you can do to begin establishing boundaries without jeopardizing patient relationships.

  • Go on vacation and be present with your loved ones. Pass the baton to colleagues you trust. You need time to enjoy rest and relaxation just as much as anyone else. Trust that your patients will be in good hands while you’re away.
  • Remember that you’re not responsible for your patient’s response to the boundaries you’ve set. Your responsibility is to communicate your boundaries in a clear and respectful manner. 
  • Set emotional boundaries. Strike the balance between being supportive and empathetic towards your patients while not becoming overly involved or taking on their problems and pains. Honor the fact that you’re a separate person with your own emotional needs.

3. Make patient satisfaction an ongoing process.

happy patient

Patient satisfaction relates to the systems you have in place and how well you try to understand your patients’ perspectives. This is a particularly important consideration since 68% of patients believe their healthcare providers need to improve how they interact with patients.

Katie M. Owens, President of the Healthcare Experience Foundation, shared this important tidbit.

“Healthcare leaders must remember that they walk into any situation with a perspective (their own) which is tremendously filled with bias. Being vigilant to seek to understand affords the opportunity and humility to take the perspective of another individual. It allows you to make better decisions, demonstrate empathy, and build trust.”

Here are some tips to help you remove bias and better understand your patients.

  • Take the time to understand the culture and background of your patients. But avoid stereotyping them. Treat them as individuals who are impacted by their cultures and unique backgrounds.
  • Be conscious of any biases you may have so that you can make a deliberate effort to remove them. 
  • Don’t make assumptions about your patients. Listen carefully to what they say during your conversations with them without judgment. That information is what you should use to build your treatment plan. Patients want to feel understood, not judged.

4. Know your networking tribe.

Word-of-mouth referrals are good for the growth of your healthcare business. But networking can lead to greater opportunities. 

Networking isn’t limited to events. You can find your networking tribe in the most unlikely places. Practice what Karen Alladin, owner of an acupuncture healthcare practice based in Lousiville, calls natural networking where you connect with other people through things you already do. 

Alladin explained the process during a podcast interview. Here’s what she said:

“I kinda made it a goal to get to know people at our local LuLu Lemon because I was familiar with the brand. I knew they worked with people who were yoga teachers, fitness instructors, or people who work in health and wellness. They have a lot of foot traffic and like to talk to customers.” 

Dr. Jacintha Romer, a therapeutic massage, acupuncture, and Chinese herbal medicine specialist based in San Diego, also recommended joining networking groups.

Healthcare practice growth tip

Here are some tips to help you make the best use of the networking experience.

  • Networking is about building mutually beneficial connections. Be genuinely curious and interested in the other person. During the conversation, identify things you have in common and use that as a springboard to build a long-term relationship. You’ll find ways to help each other as time progresses, possibly through a referral agreement. 
  • Understand what you want to gain from the networking experience. For instance, Dr. Romer wanted to meet people outside of her niche so that she had a broader network of contacts.

5. Upgrade to the latest healthcare practice management software.

Hundreds of healthcare practice management software tools are available that cover a wide range of healthcare business needs. But it’s important to know what to look for in healthcare practice management software. Any practice management software you use should have patient scheduling, insurance claims process, and reporting capabilities. This software should also securely store patient documents. 

Here’s a list of some healthcare practice management software you can try based on your healthcare practice niche. As a side note, Simple Practice, Power Diary, and Better Clinics are three healthcare practice management tools that can be used for any type of healthcare practice. 

Acupuncturist

Massage Therapist

Chiropractor

Psychologist

Dr. Charmain Jackman is a psychologist who has used Therapy Notes. Here are her thoughts on how this healthcare practice management software can help a healthcare business.

Healthcare practice management software makes it easier for you to automate business processes and manage your business. There are many options available and your aim should be to choose the option that works best for your needs. 

6. Expand your business outside of your healthcare practice.

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Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

The internet provides many opportunities for you to expand what you offer outside of your healthcare vertical. Dr. James Neilson-Watt, chiropractor and Founder of The Patients & Profit Club, only works in his practice 3.5 days per week. He has created another business where he helps other healthcare professionals get clients in the door. 

As Dr. Neilson-Watt said during his interview with James Kemp, “You see a lot of practitioners doing not just what they need to do in practice whether it’s coaching teams, running retreats and workshops, or doing business coaching.” Taking this approach gives you more time to spend with your family and do things you enjoy. 

The trick here is to find something that works for you. That’s something you’ll only discover through introspection. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to guide the process:

  • What can I do really well outside of patient care?
  • Are there enough people who struggle with this one thing?
  • How can I reach these people?
  • What type of product or service would they most benefit from? 
  • How much time and resources would I need to commit to developing this product or service?

7. Reframe how you position yourself to potential patients.

Yuri Elkaim, a holistic nutritionist, shared an interesting story in one of his Youtube videos. There was a physical therapist who, like many other healthcare professionals at the height of the pandemic, wasn’t sure what to do. 

He was losing patients and getting into a financial wormhole. After consulting with a healthcare practice growth specialist, he realized he needed to reframe how he positioned his brand. He repositioned himself as a work-from-home specialist and soon wound up with thousands of patients who he trained virtually. 

Don’t put yourself in a box. Be okay with adapting to the needs of your specific audience. 

“Look at the current pain points in the marketplace and figure out how you can solve them.” ~Yuri Elkaim

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there a specific group of clients who bring in the most revenue for my practice?
  • What’s common to this group?
  • What are the specific problems this group faces?
  • How can I attract more people who match the features of this group to my practice?

As one of our Smiledog customers said, “Market a unique service so that you can provide a smooth patient experience. Really listen to every patient to understand their goals, not your goals for them. Provide individualized patient care.” 

8. Build your team strategically.

team
Photo by Jopwell from Pexels

One of our Smiledog customers, a naturopathic doctor with more than 10 years of experience and more than 100 patients monthly, said that his number one tip for business growth is doing what others won’t. He shared that the systems he’s established and his team have helped him achieve great success.  

Hire staff who will help you achieve the growth goals you have for your healthcare practice. A healthcare practice manager and virtual receptionist are two team members who should be with you from the get-go.

 

9. Have consistent hours

This may seem counterintuitive but having consistent business hours helps your patients know when they can reach you and when they can schedule appointments. In fact, “70% of patients want their experience with healthcare providers to be as easy as brand interactions in other industries.” 

One of our Smiledog customers suggested having consistent hours based on either early morning or evening appointments. The hours you choose depend entirely on your schedule, though. Just remember to be consistent.

10. Hire a virtual receptionist

A chiropractor who gets 51 to 100 patients monthly said that hiring a virtual receptionist has helped her operate in three locations with minimal interruptions. Other survey respondents also mentioned that hiring one of Smiledog’s virtual receptionists has helped make automation and patient onboarding seamless.

But should you choose a virtual receptionist or a full-time receptionist? Both answer incoming calls, schedule appointments, process payments, sort and distribute mail, and assist clients. The main difference is that a virtual receptionist works remotely while a full-time receptionist only works in-office. 

But there are also other differences to consider. Let’s look at cost. A full-time receptionist costs far more than a virtual receptionist because you have to cover all the costs associated with having a full-time employee (regular salary, vacation leave, benefits, employee insurance, etc.). 

Then there are the demands on a full-time receptionist. There’s so much for a full-time receptionist to do that she’s likely to miss some of the calls that come to your office. It’s different with a virtual receptionist since her only focus is on answering calls — an important point to consider because “62% of patients prefer to call and talk to a person when communicating with their providers.” Missed calls lead to missed opportunities that can negatively impact the patient experience. 

But you’ll have to consider a few things before hiring a virtual receptionist. Virtual appointment setting success depends on how well you know your phone system, the ease of your booking procedures, the web-based booking software you use, and how well you and your team communicate with your virtual assistant. Get these four things right and your virtual receptionist will be a great asset to your team. 

Wrapping up: The success of your healthcare practice is in your hands

There’s so much to learn about building a successful healthcare business. You’ve read the suggestions presented in this article. Now, it’s time for you to act. What’s one thing you learned from this article that you’re going to implement in your healthcare business in the short term? Identify that one thing and get it done!

Smiledog provides virtual receptionist and appointment setting services. Learn more about what we offer and let’s help you create the best possible patient experience. 

From One Business Owner to Another: How to Ensure Your Business Survives Any Curveball Thrown Its Way

From One Business Owner to Another: How to Ensure Your Business Survives Any Curveball Thrown Its Way

Our company is by no means a massive success or a silicon valley unicorn, but we have learned a thing or two in the fifteen years we’ve been in business.

Owning a business is difficult on an easy day because quite frankly there are no easy days. For me, it is the constant worry outside the office that makes it so hard. Did I do enough today? Was that really the right call? Are my staff okay; are they happy? Is this really what I want to do in life?

Those thoughts and doubts never really go away, but as you grow there are those moments that you can only look back on that make it all worth it. Rewinding back to March 2020, the beginning of the pandemic was one of those moments we couldn’t see until now. It had been about two or three weeks since the mass shutdowns began and we had lost 50% of our business. Thirteen years building it to have half of it gone in a month. We were completely lost and had no idea what we were going to do. You see, for us, Smiledog is a family business we all depend on to support our families. 

So, we did the only thing we could do. We doubled down to ensure its survival and make sure we would come out of this pandemic thriving and never in that situation again. We are now happy to say it was the right move. 

At Smiledog, we believe in a bottom-up approach to leadership, which is the opposite of the traditional top-down approach. We support our leadership and our leadership supports the team who then supports the customers.

So with this approach in mind, we put all of our energy into creating a vibrant culture that our team was proud to be a part of. We built a sustainable financial model that will help prevent us from ever being that unstable again and created a content engine to stimulate new growth and establish our digital brand. These three things have been the key to our success throughout the pandemic, and they have truly changed the shape and future of our business. Creating these things in any business is no easy feat, but I can say confidently that it is so worth the effort as the results speak for themselves.

Create a Culture with Purpose

This sounds cliche but culture is the most important part of every business. A company without a culture is a company without a heartbeat. There is no way to survive without one. 

The misconception about culture is that it happens organically and comes from your people. Yes, they can help inspire you with ideas but in no way should you rely on your team to create the culture you want for your business. Company culture should always come from leadership, and it should always be implemented with purpose. A thriving culture doesn’t just happen, it is a strategic choice that is made. It’s a choice to make an impact on the lives of your team.

If there is one thing you can do that will have an impact on your culture, it would be to read Worth Doing Wrong by Arnie Malham. 

At Smiledog, we’ve been using ideas we’ve learned from his book for the past five years, and it has completely changed our company. We have implemented: 

  • The Better Book Club: we pay our staff to read.
  • The champion program: staff take a leading role in organizing birthday events or planning our annual Christmas party.
  • New employee onboarding checklist: a full day of culture before training even starts.
  • Propfuel: a software program that allows us to give kudos and shoutouts to everyone as well as track it all.
  • Bonuses: A robust performance-based compensation plan that is on top of the team’s regular pay.
  • Monthly coaching program: designed to help our team achieve their goals outside of work.

The 3 key takeaways we have learned over the past five years of building a great culture within our company are: 

  1. You are never finished. Culture can always be improved and worked on. Never take your foot off the gas.
  2. Rip-off, recycle, and reuse. Don’t try to invent a new wheel. Take ideas from the best and adjust them to fit your business. It will save you a lot of pain, time, and money in the long run. 
  3. Fail Forward. That is our way of saying “worth doing wrong”. Some things will not work for you and some things will. However, it is always worth trying because you will learn something from the experience. 

Create a Sustainable Financial Model

Having solid financial information is crucial to the longevity of your business. Sustainable growth is a strategic move done ahead of time by knowing your company’s past. Flying in the dark may work initially as you have the momentum behind you, but in the long term, it will become one of your biggest pain points. 

Building our financial model took us the better part of the past three years but we now have a working version in place that helps us make great decisions each and every month. It is not complete and we are always working on it, but I can tell you that we now have a full financial view of our business and such a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders. 

These are the two main takeaways we have learned from creating this style of financial model:

  1. Cutting a business’s fixed expenses is not where the difference in the bottom line will come from. 
  • Becoming more efficient within your company’s variable expenses is where you will see the biggest impact.
  • Shifting your mindset from cutting costs to improving efficiency within your largest expenses will actually have more of an impact on your daily operating costs.
  • For us last year, 71% of our expenses came from the variable side while only 18% were within our fixed, so it’s easy to find where you can make the most impact on your bottom line. 
  1. Our second key learning from building out this financial model was a simple one that created a huge “aha” moment for our leadership team.
  • We learned that comparing percentages of total revenue versus hard costs numbers has allowed us to lessen the rigidity of our numbers.
  • What I mean by this is that we can now plan to have our wage expense as 40-45% of total revenue each month versus defining it as a hard number. When looking at the hard number, you give yourself no room for error and we all know in business, things change every day. 
  • Continuing to look at this wage example, if your company is growing, so should your wage cost. When looking at it as a percentage of the total revenue, you’re allowing room for growth. Whereas the hard wage cost number will not account for this and eventually put too much pressure on your team and cause burnout. That will end up being much more costly to you from an operational perspective than an additional 1-3% of revenue spent on bringing in new staff to alleviate the workload for your team.

Create a Content Engine for Growth

This one was scary for us because it was so far out of our realm in the beginning. We had never allotted such a high spend on our marketing efforts before. To do that for any business owner is scary because marketing is never a guaranteed thing. 

After almost two years of consistent effort, we can now confidently say that content-based marketing is the only way to go. We use a company called Foundation. Check them out, seriously. It is one of the best decisions we have made in the past two years.

The thing about content marketing is that it takes time, as anything worth doing should.

We’ve been able to start building the identity of our brand in the digital space the way we want. Like everything else in business, it is always evolving and being worked on but we have never been more seamless from a digital perspective. All of our social, website, blogs, advertising, and any other work we are doing is synchronized and consistent. 

Our two biggest learnings from implementing a content strategy are:

1. Ensure you have a platform or system in the background that you can build everything off of. 

  • We use Hubspot and love it. We started with their free CRM and expanded our account into their marketing hub option, which allows us to post social content, build landing pages, and keep high-quality analytics on everything. 

2. The second thing you want to do is ensure you have a content team that holds themselves accountable.

  • Your content team needs to be consistently sharing the results with you about all your efforts. That is the best part about working with our team at Foundation. We can look back on everything we have done and see the results. Everything we do is organized and tracked. The data we have on our company now has never been easier to access, and it allows us to make the right decisions for our company’s growth.

Wrapping up

Our journey of growth at Smiledog is not a tried and tested cookie-cutter formula. Every business is different, but the one thing I can guarantee is that by focusing on at least one of the above you will see an improvement in your business. 

We just had our highest grossing quarter with our largest profit margin of any year we have been in business. That isn’t even close to the best part. We have had the ability to increase our team lead pay by 20% and our receptionists’ pay by 15%. For us, that has been the most rewarding thing. We love our team and just having the ability to give back to them has been the most fulfilling part of all of this. 

If there is a decision in front of you that seems way too daunting because you’re unsure of the results, it is always worth making the leap. You may not succeed in the end, but you will have the new experience to take with you to the end and that is the most valuable thing you can have as a business owner. 

Stay safe and thanks for reading my two cents!

A Medical Professional’s Guide to Virtual Appointments: 9 Steps to Get Started with Virtual Care

A Medical Professional’s Guide to Virtual Appointments: 9 Steps to Get Started with Virtual Care

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people access healthcare. 

At the height of the pandemic, patients couldn’t get most of their basic medical needs met in person. That led to a boom in virtual healthcare.  In fact, “telehealth use has increased 38x from the pre-COVID baseline.” 

Video chat forms the core of virtual healthcare. So, it’s not surprising that there’s been a 300% increase in the number of consumers who prefer video chat over phone calls since the pandemic began. Your patients are expecting video chats that are secure and professional, lead them closer to a diagnosis, and provide empathetic care.

As a medical professional, it’s necessary to adapt to the new norms of customer service and experience. Virtual appointments are here to stay (even in the post-pandemic world). 

But it’s critical to learn the best practices and legal requirements before incorporating virtual care into your practice. 

Here are some key considerations.

Before Getting Started

Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

Medical privacy is a major concern with virtual healthcare. In a Deloitte study, 33% of physicians expressed low enthusiasm for virtual healthcare particularly because of security and privacy concerns. A Zoom, WhatsApp, or Skype call isn’t the way to go because those platforms aren’t set up to follow Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines. 

Sure, those platforms are familiar to patients and, therefore, are more convenient to use. But they expose your patient’s sensitive medical information to security risks.  So, it’s important to find a HIPAA-compliant video chat tool.

If your practice is based in Canada, you must comply with cross-Canada virtual care licensure requirements. Simply put, you have to follow the licensure laws of the Canadian province where you’re licensed and where your patient is located. It’s also best to get insured with the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) so that your practice is legally protected. 

Now that the legal aspect is covered, let’s dive into the 9 steps to get started with virtual care. 

9 Steps to Get Started with Virtual Care

Photo by Edward Jenner from Pexels

1. Choose a Virtual Care Solution for Your Practice

There are many virtual tools on the market. When choosing a virtual care solution, you ultimately want one that’s going to cause minimal disruption to your current workflows and minimal disruption to your clients’ lives.

How do you know which virtual care solution is right for you? The best virtual care solution for your practice should meet five criteria. Assess the options you have based on these criteria and you’ll find a solution that suits your needs.

  • Provide top-tier data security and protection for you and your patients.
  • Follow clinical protocols despite being in a virtual context.
  • Be easy-to-use so that patients aren’t frustrated by the experience.
  • Have a future-thinking outlook with a design ready for future virtual care applications.
  • Have built-in electronic health records and interoperability with other patient information management systems you already use.

Once these five things are in place, it’s time to inform your team and patients about your virtual care service. 

2. Notify Your Team and Patients

Proper training is important for your team. They should understand your virtual care process, how to answer patient questions, and how to offer the right support depending on the patient’s needs. 

Patients who are calm under normal circumstances can become easily annoyed and frustrated when their health is at risk, so your virtual appointment process should be as seamless as possible. 

Let your patients know you’re offering this service. But also provide them with resources that help them better understand what they need to do. A FAQ sheet is one of many resources you could provide. 

3. Create a FAQ Resource About Your New Virtual Care Service

Before providing your patients and team with a FAQ sheet, you should first get answers to your burning questions about virtual healthcare. Some of these questions from a provider’s perspective are answered in this FAQ sheet from the US Department of Health and Civil Services.

It’s important to make everything about your virtual care service crystal clear from the beginning. You know your patients and already have a sense of the questions they typically ask your receptionist for in-person visits. Start there. You can reframe those questions within the digital context.

Also, your FAQ sheet should include answers to these questions:

  • Will our conversations be recorded?
  • How are recorded conversations protected?
  • What medical issues are covered in your virtual care service?
  • How do I know whether I should set a virtual appointment or go to the hospital?
  • How will I get my prescription? 
  • What technology will I need to check my vitals etc.?

There’s something else you should do before fully launching your virtual care services. Get your patient’s signed consent. 

You already know that data privacy is a major issue in the virtual world. The number of patient records that were breached in the second half of 2020 increased by more than 180%. Those breaches mainly came from business associates, not the virtual healthcare providers themselves. 

Scary, huh? The legal impact of such breaches could greatly affect your practice, so consult a lawyer for help with creating a digital patient contract. All your patients should sign that contract before you work with them. Sign Now is a HIPAA-compliant electronic signature provider that would work well for this purpose.

But can all your patient’s medical issues be covered virtually?

5. Determine What’s Suitable for Virtual Care 

This is a delicate issue. Some jurisdictions have laws that govern the medical issues that can be treated virtually, so it’s always best to first look at the laws of both your patient’s region and yours before outlining what’s suitable for virtual care.

Generally, medical professionals use virtual appointments to treat common illnesses, such as colds and rashes. Clinicians, such as psychiatrists and therapists, can also easily have virtual one-on-one sessions with their clients. Patients also have the option to schedule ongoing care (or a follow-up visit) if necessary.

So, what’s the best way to schedule virtual appointments?

6. Schedule Your Virtual Appointments 

Virtual appointment setting requires more than a Calendly link. There are 4 steps to creating a successful virtual appointment process for your team:

  • Get full control of your call forwarding.
  • Organize your information in a way that makes it easy for your virtual receptionist and patient to understand.
  • Use an appointment-setting service that sets patient appointments in real-time and adds them to web-based booking software, such as JaneApp
  • Keep your virtual team up-to-date with what’s happening. 

Now that the virtual appointment is set, how can you prepare for it?

7. How to Prepare for Your Virtual Appointment

Here are some tips to help you prepare for your virtual appointment:

  • Ask your virtual receptionist to ensure the patient has a signed contract on file. If not, ensure one is signed before the appointment.
  • Create an intake form that provides you with all the information you need about the patient’s medical information prior to the appointment. 
  • Ensure the patient completes the intake form at least an hour before the virtual appointment.
  • Review the intake form before the virtual appointment and jot down a list of follow-up questions you want to ask during the call.
  • Set the tone for the appointment by minimizing distractions. Both you and your patient should ensure that all of your focus is on what’s happening in the appointment. Both you and your patient should close the extra tabs, put your pets and kids in the other room, turn off your phone, and leave the snacking for after the meeting.

The next step is providing your patient with the best quality care during (and after) the call.

8. Demonstrate Virtual Care Etiquette While in Virtual Appointments

Virtual appointments feel very different from in-person visits. Your patients are already very intimidated. Your aim is to help them feel as comfortable as possible so that you can share the next best steps for them.

Here are some things you can do to make your patients more comfortable:

  • Be warm and friendly.
  • Show empathy towards their situation.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Ensure the patient feels heard and understood.
  • Be as clear as possible about treatment options.
  • Offer opportunities for the patient to ask questions.

Regardless of the illness, it’s good to follow up with patients to see how they’re doing.  

9. Schedule Follow-Up Appointments

Your virtual receptionist can use your appointment-setting service to schedule follow-up appointments with your patients. Whether it’s for in-person treatment or another virtual consultation, these follow-up appointments will ensure your patients get the treatment they need. 

Photo by Edward Jenner from Pexels

Wrapping Up

Virtual appointments will continue to increase moving forward. An easily accessible and well-structured virtual appointment process helps you provide quality medical care when your patients need it most. It’s important now more than ever for you to embrace virtual appointments as part of your medical practice. 

Smiledog helps small businesses scale by freeing up their time and improving their overall customer experience with a reliable, specialized team of experts that handle booking your patients’ appointments and answering their calls. Reach out to us to learn more about our appointment setting and virtual receptionist services.