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Bookings, recalls and feedback work to boost practices

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Optical dispenser Ashlee Maul at Kevin Paisley’s Fashion Eyewear

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By Helen Carter
Journalist

 

MyHealth1st, an online health-care search and appointment booking service, has launched a feedback option enabling practices to ask patients about their experiences, and to provide information on deals.

More than 1,200 optometrists nationwide have signed up to MyHealth1st.

The EasyFeedback option, launched in March, is the third main feature of the service, after online booking and recalls. Practices can customise feedback and include links to current special offers on frames, sunglasses and contact lenses.

MyHealth1st enables patients to book online 24/7 from any internet-connected device and while the service is free for them, practices pay a fee.

The service has been operating for several years but most optometry practices that have signed up did so during intense promotion over the past six months, according to Klaus Bartosch, co-founder and managing director of the 1ST Group.

‘Optometry is one of our fastest growing categories,’ he said. ‘The reaction we’ve had from optometry is fairly unanimous. The new patient growth we create for them, almost eliminating no-shows, and the reduction in workload and costs are profound. Optometry practices are joining because it’s a no-brainer.’

Mr Bartosch said half of health-care patients now booked online. His company has captured five million online health-care bookings since 2012, and now averages more than 150,000 a month with that number growing fast.

‘Patients prefer and will search for services that offer online booking so health practitioners will be left behind if they don’t adopt online booking,’ he said. ‘Recent survey data prove that if you don’t have it, patients will go elsewhere and search for practices that do.’

New patients

He said one interesting statistic peculiar to optometry compared with other health services was that 30 per cent of online bookings in optometry made using MyHealth1st are by existing patients and 70 per cent are by new patients.

‘Generally 70 per cent of health bookings are from existing customers and 30 per cent are new patients. We were startled by the high number of new patients booking at optometry practices. The cross promotion, enabling booking on their own and our websites, works really well for optometry,’ he said.

MyHealth1st offers online booking available through practices’ own websites where existing patients choose their appointment time, date, practitioner and appointment type, including a comprehensive eye examination, contact lens consultation, follow up or review consultation.

Online booking is also offered through the MyHealth1st website, and mobile app which enable patients to search a national directory and find optometrists in their area. This feature attracts new patients to practices.

Recall system

A second feature, costing the practice 50 cents per recall campaign to a patient, offers efficient and rapid recall. Patients receive an SMS, email or both with a highly personalised ‘smart link’ included that enables a patient to book their own appointment in three clicks.

Every patient who books online is one fewer phone call the practice has to manage, and one fewer patient they have to follow up to rebook. Every online booking automatically appears in each practice’s practice management software appointment calendar and is linked to the patient’s existing patient record.

‘Instead of practices sending several letters to patients, often without response, it takes one minute for a practice to send all recalls for a month and costs only one-quarter of what it usually costs for recalls in terms of mail-outs, phone-calls and staff time, and will soon be completely automated,’ Mr Bartosch said.

Practices have control over recall frequency, depending on individual patient needs. For example, recalls may be sent more often for diabetic patients.

‘Every optometrist or practice who has taken our online booking option also takes easyRECALLS because, again, it’s a no-brainer, very cost-effective and labour friendly,’ he said.

The Optical Company

CEO of The Optical Company, optometrist Colin Kangisser, initially asked MyHealth1st if it could incorporate a feedback button into the service. The Optical Company’s 26 practices had implemented MyHealth1st and incorporated it into their Optomate software but wanted a feedback option.

EasyFeedback was developed by MyHealth1st but fine-tuned by The Optical Company. It was so promising that MyHealth1st decided to offer it to all health-care practices.

‘EasyFeedback is easy to manipulate so that each practice can customise it to what they want, such as including current deals and specials on frames, sunglasses or contact lenses,’ Mr Kangisser said.

Mr Bartosch said all feedback was linked to the practice. Patients are asked about their experience of the practice, if they have seen specials, and are provided links. Practices can include any questions, triggers or actions that they want in the feedback form.

EasyFeedback invitations are automatically sent to every patient who has had an appointment with the practice, whether they booked online or over the phone. Invitations are sent via email but can also be sent by SMS.

‘It’s a business management, sales and education tool to engage patient feedback about the service, what they did and did not like and why, and share e-vouchers or engage in offers after their appointment,’ he said.  ‘It helps practices keep their patients and links to practice management software.

‘No-one does feedback or recall like us, enabling them to be controlled by each practice.’

Good response

The Optical Company’s stores currently include Kevin Paisley Fashion Eyewear, Stacey & Stacey Optometrists, NIB Eyecare Centres, Prevue Eyewear and The Optical Co, in addition to on-line e-commerce presence.

‘They’ve had a good response from using MyHealth1st and feedback has been very good,’ Mr Kangisser said.

‘Initially when there is something new, people look at it with a bit of trepidation, but MyHealth1st has been fantastic and has worked with us to get staff on board and staff are now totally behind it. The challenge of new technology means behavioural change of staff too.

‘Our practices have been getting new customers from the MyHealth1st website when people search for an optometrist in their area, and lots of existing customers are booking via the practices’ own websites.

‘Optometry practices now need to be more competitive and have to be sophisticated with their IT.’

Optical dispenser Ashlee Maul from Kevin Paisley Fashion Eyewear, Geelong West, said MyHealth1st meant she could spend more time on practice tasks other than answering phones and booking appointments.

‘It enables me to spend more time with patients as I am not interrupted with phone calls,’ she said. ‘The recall system takes about one minute per month.’

MyHealth1st has a special offer for Optometry Australia members.

Read also Booking portal is the way of the future

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