6 Patient Scheduling Best Practices

Starr Campbell

There’s a fine line between keeping your schedule full and overbooking your calendar. Back-to-back appointments and a crowded waiting room might sound good for business, but it can easily backfire when your staff get overwhelmed, and patients become frustrated. Once your patients feel inconvenienced, you risk losing them to another provider. A recent report revealed that 1 in 5 patients claim to have switched doctors due to long wait times.

Most front office medical practice staff spend a lot oftime dealing with phone calls, paperwork and reminding patients of their appointments. An online scheduling tool can transform the appointment booking process by a solution that offers self-scheduling, digital intake forms, and automated text and email notifications.

When you automate manual processes, you create a better and more efficient experience for patients. Online forms can be completed at home and reduce waiting times. This will streamline the intake process and reduce the workload for office staff.

Here are some helpful ways to improve your patient scheduling process.

Use an online scheduler

The rise of telehealth in the medical industry has provided a level of convenience that patients look for in every practice. As of 2021, over 84% of physicians offer virtual care. To stay competitive and relieve your staff of extra duties, try a booking software that can handle scheduling tasks for you.

When selecting an online scheduling tool, it’s important to consider the features you need. Some schedulers can combine multiple staff and locations into a single calendar. Other schedulers offer the ability to customize your booking page or to customize and attach patient intake forms. Features like this create a better experience for patients while improving your scheduling process.


With TimeTap, all these features are available. Your online scheduler also receives its own custom URL, or you can embed it on your website.

Create a cancellation policy

Businesses may not think they need a cancellation policy until problems arise. Setting a cancellation policy is a good way to provide expectations to customers and protect your business. When drafting your cancellation policy, make sure it is clear and concise. The main goal is to bring awareness to patients regardingany charges or fees that result from canceling an appointment.

Display your cancellation policy somewhere easily visible like a confirmation email or on your scheduling page. For administrators who prefer to have signed agreements, attach the policy as a required form to fill out while scheduling an appointment.

It’s important to be strategic with your scheduling. While you don’t want to overbook your patients, cancellations do occur. Using a scheduler that offers a waitlist feature ensures that cancellations can be quickly filled. Most solutions automate the waitlist feature and automatically notify any patients who are waiting for an earlier appointment spot to open.

Improve scheduling efficiency

The bottleneck that often creates frustration among patients is the waiting room. Yet, small improvements to the process can make a big difference to enhance patient visits. To improve efficiency, consider collecting patient information in advance with online intake forms. Set up a kiosk or iPad in the office to make check-in easy for patients. Tools such as TimeTap offer an online check in feature.

An overbooked schedule often leads to more harm than good. With no time to reset between patients or a grace period for visits that run long, a packed calendar can result in unhappy patients and stressed staff. Adding a buffer between the start and stop times of an appointment gives your patients a better chance of being seen right away.

Use an appointment recall system

Building a business isn’t only about taking in new patients, it’s also important to schedule recurring appointments and checkups with current patients. Yet, it’s cumbersome to manually contact patients to schedule checkup appointments. Tracking and following up with your entire client list about annual visitsis not an efficient approach.

Automatic messaging campaigns can be a lifesaver for providers looking to nurture their client list. Not only can you improve repeat business, but you’ll also have the opportunity to provide helpful resources and reduce customer churn for your practice. Some scheduling solutions offer appointment recall campaigns that send custom emails to patients who need to book a repeat appointment.

If you run a physical therapy clinic, most of your patients may be on a goal-based plan or system. On the other hand, you may have outpatient surgery clients who need to be seen every four months to check their progress. After setting a goal and service type, TimeTap will automatically send emails and texts that remind patients to book an appointment.

Set up screening questions

Every successful visit starts with good information. To properly service a patient, providers must have access to vital information. Screening questions are a helpful way to ensure specific requirements are met before patients complete booking.

Screening questions should be brief and easy to answer. Frame them to prequalify someone for care and identify those who wouldn’t benefit from your services. For example, if a patient books a serious realignment with a chiropractor's office and doesn’t book a consultation first - they would not qualify to be serviced. This is where screening questions can help direct patients appropriately.


Use an appointment reminder system

Maintaining active communication with your patients can be the difference between repeat visits and a no-show. Calling and sending emails for upcoming appointments is a painstaking task. Save front office staff from this manual workload by automating the process. Streamline your outreach efforts with an automated reminder system that does the hard part for you.

TimeTap supports email and text messages for appointment reminders and notifications. You can also use the messaging system to send patients a thank you note for their business, an alert if you need to cancel, or to confirm an appointment with a friendly message.

With software designed to handle a complex schedule, you can offer your patients a seamless, convenient booking experience and empower your staff to do more with less work.

Looking for an appointment scheduling solution with powerful features? Consider TimeTap – a secure HIPAA compliant appointment scheduling software that is trusted by a number of small and large medical practices.

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