First impressions matter and clients start forming a perception of a practice before they even walk through the door.
From the initial phone call or email to when they enter the consulting room, each step in the healthcare client onboarding process is an opportunity to build a positive image of your practice. And, if you do it right, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and stress in the process.
It’s a win-win.
A good experience makes your clients’ lives easy while building trust. It sets the tone for your relationship with them going forward. This then forms the foundation of a long-term relationship— and directly impacts your bottom line.
In this article, we’ve mapped out the client journey from initial contact to the consulting room, covering the steps you need to take to make the process smooth for you and your clients.
1. Initial Contact and Appointment Booking
Onboarding starts when a new client calls to book their first appointment or sends an email. You can have everything ready to go, whether they need more information or the next available appointment.
To streamline this vital step:
- Compile a list of the most common questions asked by new clients and ensure your reception team has them on hand, so potential clients get the information they need.
- Make a checklist of the information you need from clients, such as a contact number, email address, and full name and DON’T collect unnecessary information.
- Use appointment booking software that makes it easy to check availability so you can provide appointment options immediately.
- In addition to booking the first appointment, you can also book a follow-up appointment at the same time. This sets expectations for attendance and reinforces the client’s commitment to continuing treatment.
2. A Day or Two Before the Appointment
Try and get your healthcare client onboarding administration done ahead of time with electronic forms and practice management software. Your EMR software system should be able to send online forms and policies, plus handle your invoicing. You may also want to send an email or SMS to your clients if they have not completed the electronic forms.
Email Your Practice Policies
Most practices have a number of policies, so be sure to send the most important ones to your clients. Examples of practice policies include:
- Payment Policy
- Cancellation Policy
If your practice policies include fees for no-shows or late cancellations, provide an explanation with context during the onboarding experience. It helps clients to understand why a fee is in place. For example: To maximise practitioner availability, we ask that you provide a minimum of 48 hours notice when cancelling an appointment.
Email Your Client Forms
These are the forms you need clients to complete before an appointment. It cuts down on administration if clients submit them online ahead of time. Important client forms include:
- New Client Intake Form
- Informed Consent Form
- Information Release Authorisation Form
- COVID Screening Form (if needed)
3. On the Morning of the Appointment
To make your clients feel as comfortable as possible ahead of their appointment (via email or SMS), let them know:
- How to find the practice, including links to directions and parking instructions.
- How to get to your rooms (do they need to take an elevator or stairs?)
- What to expect upon arrival, provide photos of the practice building and reception on your website to set expectations.
- What to bring with them, if they need identification, insurance information, loose clothing or anything additional.
4. In the Reception Area
Make Clients Welcome
As the new client steps into the waiting room, ensure that your reception staff stops what they’re doing, acknowledges them and lets them know what to do. Most new clients in an unfamiliar setting will feel nervous or unsure of what they need to do next.
If you’re the practice owner, you need to communicate these priorities to your team, which is where a Customer Service Policy comes in; ensuring that all staff are on the same page with practice policies will facilitate a positive onboarding experience.
In the waiting room, help the client to feel comfortable and welcome before their appointment. You could offer magazines and resources in your waiting area that are relevant to your client demographic and provide comfortable seating.
Let clients know if you’re open to allowing a partner or support person to attend the appointment. Inform them of this before the appointment to avoid a potentially awkward situation.
Communicate What to Do
Include signage in the reception area instructing clients on what to do when they arrive. Communicate if they need to sign in, check in at the desk, take a seat, and what to do if no one is at the desk.
Get Any Outstanding Client Information
If your client didn’t submit forms in advance or acknowledge receipt of your practice policies online, now’s the time to get this done. In addition to having an online workflow for clients, you need a backup in-office system to ensure that you can quickly and easily get the required information in place before their appointment.
Take a Step Back
The client intake flow we’ve outlined above is simple, but there are a number of things you’ll need to put in place before things will run smoothly.
Here’s a list to help you get started:
- Draw up a Customer Service Policy and share it with your staff; this forms the basis of any interactions your team has with clients.
- Set up your EMR software to handle billing.
- Set payment expectations upfront and decide how to communicate them to clients.
- Decide whether (and how) you charge for no-shows and cancellations.
- Consider whether online booking would work for your practice, and then familiarise your clients with the process. This client portal user manual should make it simple.
- Set up automated SMS and email appointment reminders to reduce no-shows.
- Create online forms for new clients and set up notifications so that you’ll know when forms are completed.
- Check that you have the right policies in place.
However you decide to approach client onboarding, you should keep their needs at the forefront, as processes may vary depending on your client demographic. But, even if the details change, the need for a straightforward, client-orientated onboarding process doesn’t. With cloud-based EMR software, it’s simple to set up automations that make the experience simple and easier for both you and your clients.