As a therapist, our calendar and having a full appointment book is our lifeline. If clients aren't calling, scheduling, and coming in for therapy appointments- we don't make money. The bummer is, that doesn't mean our overhead goes down in most cases!
One way that therapists are looking to increase new client schedules and decrease no shows/late cancellations is with online appointment scheduling capabilities. A big question when you are looking to see what program might work best for you is security.
I have struggle with this particular issue for a long time. Most appointment schedulers are not terribly secure. They have about the same security level as email. However, most of us have come to the conclusion that allowing clients to make initial contacts through email removes a barrier to entry for many clients. Some therapists use ultra secure email like Hushmal at http://www.hushmail.com but that is a different conversation ;0)
Email is often more secure than having a receptionist, more direct, less awkward, and provides more actual privacy. I have tried a few different options out and here is my favorite thing to do:
1. I have a secure appointment scheduler as part of my practice management system at Argonaut Software- LOVE it. I DO NOT give continuing or new clients the option to schedule on this program. I like maintaining more control over this process. My schedule is full and I don't want people bouncing around if I can help it.
2. When I wasn't completely full and I had odd times that were harder to feel- Mondays at 8 am for example, I would set up a web based scheduler on my website. I would use a FREE service as I only had a few times that I wanted scheduled. I like the one at http://www.fullslate.com as it lets you try it out until you have 10 new clients set their appointments. If you are only doing a few appointments a week, or you are still fine tuning your marketing- this could last you a bit of time.
I would ONLY use it for the first appointment- and then I would move them into my regular process. I would also put a note that clients could call for additional appointment times. Afternoon and early evening appointments would go so fast, it wasn't worth my time to put them on the website, I would have someone calling to fill it up as soon as it was there... Remember, your practice may be different.
3. If you are completely new, don't put everyday and time available. Look at filling one or two "blocks" of time per week and expanding from those. It will be WAY stressful to be doing client hours at random times throughout the week. Also note that argnoaut has a "new therapist" discount that they don't publish. Call and ask and say we sent you- if you are seeing less than 15 clients per week it is a hefty discount!
4. Appointment schedulers can give you options like auto reminders to clients. I like clients to be able to select this as an option. Argonaut allows clients to do text, email, or phone reminders-something for everyone- automated and clients love it.
Finally, remember paper calendars in your purse or briefcase are NOT secure. Things get lost, stolen, etc. I keep my complete calendar- clients, personal, professional, etc. in my secured iphone. I can quickly pull up my calendar by entering in my pin. I KNOW Iphones can get hacked. However, I also know I have setup my Iphone to do a REMOTE WIPE and also to be able to change the password on my calendar and other information quickly. Can your paper calendar do that?
By the way, I will be talking about all of this and more this Friday at the fabulous Technology event. Check out the calendar for the details, let me know you'll be there, and then register for the full conference. SO many great talks at this FREE event.
Hope this helps you as you decide what pages should be included in a therapist website, as you build your own website, or you look to get more full fee clients in your private practice.
Helping you find and use technology that doesn't suck!