Why an online booking system beats phone bookings

If you’re not currently using an online booking system in your allied health practice, is it time to reconsider? Online bookings have several clear advantages over phone bookings – for both you and your patients.

Aisling Smith·

Illustration of a person marking off a calendar on an oversized phone

Here’s an interesting fact for you: 34.5% of the allied health professionals who responded to the Cliniko 2022 survey told us that their clinic doesn’t take online bookings. While this number does vary across professions and depending on business size (have a look at our 2022 allied health survey write-up for more detail), it’s nonetheless a sizeable percentage!

Sure, online bookings won’t be the right fit for every practice. For example, depending on your profession, you might need to speak with new patients personally to see if you’re the right fit for them. But if it’s at all possible for your practice to offer online bookings, it’s definitely something to consider! There are some strong advantages — for both you and your patients — associated with online bookings. Not to mention some clear downsides if you only take bookings by phone.

Online booking is better for your patients

  • They can see all available appointment times
    With an online booking system, patients can see all your available appointment slots and pick whichever one suits them best. They have ample time to cross-check your availability against their calendar or check in with whoever they need to at home. Contrast this to a phone call, where you read out your available times one by one to your patient. They don’t get the big picture of what all their options are and probably feel bad to be indecisive or take too much time thinking about it. The likely outcome is that they make a rushed decision, which may not really work for them (and then you might have to take another phone call at some stage to rearrange the appointment).
A screenshot of Moon Podiatry's online booking page with available appointment dates and times
  • There’s no need for awkward chitchat
    While some people love small talk, others don't. The stereotype that Millennials and Generation Z hate talking on the phone turns out to be quite true! In fact, according to a survey run by BankMyCell, 85% of Millennials report feeling anxiety when making phone calls. This certainly isn’t what you want an entire demographic of your patients to be feeling each time they want to make an appointment with you. Online booking is a friend to the introverts, the quiet folks, or anyone who feels a bit socially uncomfortable!
  • Making an upfront payment or deposit is more secure
    If you require an upfront payment for a patient to book, this is much more secure when done online. If patients are inputting their payment details themselves online, they can see exactly which payment site you’re using. Giving credit card details over the phone is potentially risky for your patients — they have to put their trust in you and your business to manage the information they’re giving you safely and discreetly. For example, if you read back a credit card number to check you’ve got it right, is anyone else in the waiting room listening in? Do you input the payment immediately or record the details to process later? And how secure is the call in the first place? There are numerous points where security can go awry with a phone call.
A screenshot of Cliniko's online payments form with billing formation fields
  • It’s better for accessibility
    If your patients don’t speak English as a first language or have issues with their hearing or speech in any way, offering online booking makes your practice far more inclusive and accessible for them. In fact, the phone can be a tricky method of communication for everyone. Anyone with a slightly unusual name knows how annoying it is to have to repeat yourself several times in a phone call or resort to spelling out your name via Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. In this sense, online bookings can be better for everyone.
  • There’s more privacy
    Online booking also offers an alternative for those who aren’t in a safe enough environment to make a phone call. If any of your patients are in abusive situations, online booking might be a more inconspicuous option for them to access the care they need. Booking online is also private enough for people to do while they’re at work or out in public. 

Online booking is better for your practice

  • It’s more convenient for you
    If phone booking is the only way for a patient to reach you, you probably need to have a receptionist available to answer calls whenever they come in. If two people happen to call at once, uh oh, you’re in trouble! Things are equally troublesome if you’re running a solo practice, in which case you likely spend the gaps between your appointments following up missed phone calls (or playing telephone chasey).
  • You’re not disturbed outside your business hours
    If you’ve got an online system in place, patients can book anytime that suits them and it doesn’t require you to be available for this. With phone booking, on the other hand, there are limited business hours in which patients can reach you. If you’ve got a receptionist, they can at least take the call when your practice is open, but if you’re a solo practitioner, the times that people call will usually coincide with when you’re busy seeing other patients. The time that’s convenient for them probably isn’t convenient for you. 
  • It helps you match your competitors
    If you only take bookings by phone, a potential patient may even decide that this is too much of a roadblock and make an appointment with another practice who does offer online bookings. After all, it only takes a quick Google search for a patient to see a whole range of other clinic options, so offering online bookings is one more way for you to stay competitive.
  • It’s easier to track the effectiveness of your digital marketing
    How do your patients find you? You’ve probably got a few marketing tactics you use, but which ones are actually working? An online booking system makes this much easier to determine, as you can far more easily track your customer’s journey from start to finish. It’s much easier to grow your practice when you fully understand your marketing!
  • Authentication is easier online
    If a patient is booking online, authentication is straightforward. Your patient has control of this, with their email address and their password, and it requires minimal involvement from you. By contrast, it’s not fast or friendly to go through an authentication process with someone over the phone (and sometimes this step even gets skipped altogether on the phone). Authentication by phone is also not discreet — it’s not a good idea for anyone to be verbalising a password aloud!
A screenshot of Cliniko's patient form with fields for information and signatures
  • It’s easier to manage privacy
    If your patients are booking online, you can ask them to fill in any relevant online forms about their reasons for coming to see you and medical history. If you do have a receptionist managing your phone bookings, your patients could potentially be disclosing medical information to them rather than the practitioner, which could be a privacy concern.

We hope this has given you some things to consider about the way you manage your bookings. Even if you want to keep offering phone bookings, having an online system is something you can easily provide as an additional option.

If online bookings are something you’d like to implement, Cliniko can definitely help! We offer a secure and easy-to-use online booking system that’s accessible to your patients from any device and automatically synchronises with your appointment diary. Too easy! Check out this page for more information.

Author information

Aisling is a Melbourne-based writer and all around word nerd. When she isn't writing for Cliniko, she likes circus fitness, playing her cello, and eating dessert.

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