How to Move to Virtual Appointments (Without Having a Meltdown)

Well, that happened quickly.

One moment your office is humming with patients excited to curb their sugar addiction or end their battle with migraines…

… the next you’re scrambling to transfer your practice from *in-office* to virtual appointments. All while juggling a toddler-gone-wild and your husband leading meetings six feet away. { ← who knew he was the *let’s table that, for now,* guy?!}

Welcome to #quarantine2020.

Before you chuck your day-old cup of coffee at the wall, take a deep breath… we’re here to make this transition easier.

Moving to virtual appointments doesn’t need to be *I’d-rather-eat-glass-level* difficult. The same goes for many other industries. Realtors learning to do real estate virtual tours. Chefs doing contactless delivery via mobile. And many more. 

To prove it, we’ve outlined the basics to take you from in-person appointments to physically but not socially distanced {AKA virtual} … without having a meltdown.

What are virtual appointments?

young woman working on virtual appointments on her laptop

If you’re not sure what a *virtual appointment* is we’ve got more work to do than I thought. 😜 JK.

All kidding aside, *pre-COVID-19* your practice would’ve been offering in-person appointments at a brick & mortar location, right?

Well, now Bookedin is going to help transition you to virtual appointments with a little help from Zoom. You’ll still be offering a menu of services, only now, you’ll be helping clients online. { ← from a safe distance of 6ft away}

Who can take advantage of virtual appointment booking?

Are you still on the fence if this is a viable option for your in-office practice? Here’s a sampling of industries moving to virtual appointment booking in the health care professional space:

  • Homeopaths
  • Holistic health providers
  • Wellness coaches
  • Doctors (prescription renewals)
  • Dieticians
  • Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners (TCM)
  • Counselors
  • Therapists (marriage, physical)
  • Chiropractors

If your care services practice is on pause as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a way to continue offering your services… virtual care online appointment booking.

What parts of your business can transition to virtual appointments?

Now’s the time to put your left brain on blast.

Creativity is officially having its moment in the spotlight. Businesses across all industries are discovering resourceful ways to transition their services online.

For example, a hair salon in Victoria, BC is looking up client color mixes in-shop, dropping them off curbside {no touching!} and offering Zoom lessons on *how to properly color your hair.* No excuses to box dye now 😉.

How can you apply this same principle to your practice? Take ten minutes to brainstorm what services transfer seamlessly, for example:

  • Consultations
  • Follow-ups
  • Evaluations
  • Full sessions (therapy, dietary, training)

Why are virtual appointments even happening?

woman booking a virtual appointment

The answer to this question may be obvious {let’s be frank, it is}.

As overwhelming as it may feel to reconfigure your practice… it’s doable with a few tweaks and a smidge of patience.

How to choose the right mix of platforms to transition seamlessly

Does it feel like adding one more thing to your plate in this *ready to yank your hair out* time may push you over the edge? Rather than throw in the towel, let’s break down your transition from in-office to virtual appointments step-by-step. We’ll start with your current in-office procedure.

Here’s what the workflow may look like:

  • Your patient calls to book an appointment
  • The receptionist checks your booking system for availability & books the appointment
  • A reminder is sent out by email, text or you call
  • The patient comes into your office where you treat them
  • A prescription/treatment plan is provided at the end of the appointment
  • The patient pays with your receptionist using a credit card machine or cash
  • The receptionist makes sure your patient books their follow-up appointment

Now, go through each of the above steps to figure out:

  1. How you can replace each step with a *virtual* option.
  2. The simplest way to make each stage barrier-free and easy-to-follow for your patients
  3. What your budget will be for the next few months (before you start purchasing new software).

Finally–take into consideration both your comfort level with new technology…

homer simpson doesn't understand computers

Helpful Tip: When you’re looking for new tools to transition—what does their support look like and how quickly can you put it into place.

Once you’ve determined your new virtual practice workflow, run through it before you go live. Have a backup plan in case something goes awry {tech hiccups, disconnection}. And make sure to provide your patients with secondary contact info in case they get stuck, have questions or get frustrated during your new process.

How do I host a virtual appointment?

Hopefully, by now, you’re feeling confident with your new workflow and more hopeful about this whole *coronavirus* bump in the road–onward & upward!! The time has arrived to get your online appointment booking & virtual room all set up.

Part one: Set up online appointment scheduling

First things first, you’ll need to set up your Bookedin account. {if you’ve already accomplished this, please feel free to skip ahead to part two}:

Time’s of the essence right now, so we’re giving you Cliff’s Notes on how to get your business switched over to virtual appointment scheduling.

START HERE: Sign up for your 30-day free trial. {this has all the bells & whistles… it’s our pro plan baby}

Getting up & running is a breeze with our *set-up wizard.* Follow along step-by-step and you’ll be walked through the following:

  • Your business name, address, website & contact information
  • Services (duration, type, description, price)
  • Calendars (you have access to unlimited during the trial)
  • Business hours (watch how to set your available hours here)

SIDENOTE: If you need a bit more help with set-up, head here to watch the full walkthrough video.

Next, it’s time to go in and add the finer details to your business.

Customize your confirmation emails

Here’s where the magic happens. With the Bookedin scheduling app, your clients automatically receive a booking confirmation as well as two reminders by email and/or text.

Now that you’re switching to virtual appointments you’ll want to customize your confirmation email. You can include a link to your Zoom room so your clients know where to *meet* you, along with detailed instructions on what to expect and how to join.

sample of a Bookedin client email

Here are the steps to take after logging into your Bookedin account:

In the top menu, go to  Settings > Email/Text Reminders

  1. Under Personalized Emails, choose either “Add a message to all booking confirmations and reminder emails” or “Add a unique message for each service”.
  2. Write your personalized message in the text editor. Use the formatting tools and the link tool to add a URL. {this is where you’ll add your Zoom link}
  3. You can then click *Send Test Email* to see what your email looks like.
  4. Click Save Changes

Heads up: If you selected “Unique message for each service” repeat steps 4 & 5 for each of your services.

Here’s a link that explains more details about custom client emails.

Now: Set up your online payments

Since you’ll no longer be collecting payments via your handy debit machine, I’d like to introduce you to online payments. After you’ve connected your PayPal business account you can begin collecting:

  • Upfront deposits
  • Pay later (after the booking)
  • Gratuities

You now have the flexibility to require a partial/full deposit before their booking is confirmed. With online payments activated, they will see a “pay now” button in all email reminders sent to them. This button will connect them directly to PayPal for easy, fast payment.

Here’s a video detailing the steps to set up online payments:

For detailed text instructions {mobile & desktop} please follow this link.

You’re now ready to customize your booking page:

Now that you’re set up to begin taking virtual appointments, let’s make sure your booking page looks perfect.

Log in to the Bookedin web and head to Settings > Customize. Here you’ll want to go through each option and tailor them to best suit your business.

In this section of the scheduling app, you can make changes to your:

And finally… drumroll, please …

ddrumroll Melissa McCarthy

Let people know how they can book a virtual appointment with you:

Share your new online booking page on Facebook, Instagram, email, or copy your link and text it. The more you can spread the word, the faster everyone will know you’re *virtually* open for business. 

Every time you post a photo (on Instagram or Facebook), type “Book an appointment online. Link in bio.” or something to that effect in your caption. It’s important to mention this every time you post. Your followers might not see all of your posts or they might just need a gentle reminder to book an appointment.

Related: How to Book Appointments Through Instagram

Here are the steps to share your new online booking page:

Mobile App:

  1. Launch the iPhone or Android app
  2. Tap Settings
  3. Tap Online Booking Page option
  4. Choose any of the share options or tap-and-hold the link at the top of the screen to copy to your clipboard

For complete desktop instructions, head here.

And we’re not going to leave you hanging… a few more ways to spread the word:

Now that you’re all set up with online booking, your clients will need only take two simple steps:

  1. Navigate to your booking page
  2. Book the next available appointment

People aren’t required to create an account or sign up for Bookedin. It’s as easy as finding an appointment time that works, completing your booking form and *booking it.* 

Now, onto Part Two: Setting up your *basic* Zoom acct:

If you don’t already have a Zoom account you’ll need to create one by visiting zoom.us/signup.

Once you’re set-up, you can log in on the web at any time, here: zoom.us/signin. This login gives you access to the Zoom web portal where you can update your profile, schedule a meeting, edit your settings, and oh, so much more.

Here’s where you’re gonna want to head first: Meetings {it’s on the left side panel} > Personal Meeting Room.

Within that tab, you’ll discover a little button that says “copy invitation.” That’ll be the link you’ll use to offer your patients a virtual *face-to-face* appointment.

You can go ahead and paste it into the custom patient email you created earlier. Your patient simply clicks the link when their appointment starts and is connected directly to your room.

The genius part? You decide if you’d like them to have access to the room before you arrive, or if you’d like them to wait outside… just like your real office 😊.

For a full tutorial on how to get started, here’s the link to Zoom’s quick start guide.

Conclusion: Bookedin + Zoom = virtual appointment success

What steps do I need to take before I launch my virtual practice?

woman working remotely by a window

Oh boy, it feels just like opening day of your practice all over again doesn’t it?  This time you’ve been thrown one helluva curveball, but you’re a professional and adapting is what you do best. Second only to preparing.

Let’s walk through a checklist before you launch this virtual practice:

  1. Complete a trial run {or ten} from booking to *virtual appointment* – no one likes surprises!
  2. Outline the steps for your patients in their confirmation email
  3. Devise a backup plan in case of technology blips or miscommunication (i.e., video freezes, internet interruptions, delayed appointments)
  4. Provide a secondary form of contact in case of patient questions
  5. Stay on track. You’re accustomed to a certain rhythm within your *in person* practice. This new way of doing things will be unfamiliar to you and your patients. Keep a stopwatch/clock handy and keep it moving… or, your day will veer off course before you know it.

One last thing before you go *live*…

Do a quick scan of the surroundings. Are there piles of toys, an unmade bed, bras flung over a chair? Consider what will be seen.

What needs to happen after my virtual appointment?

Now you’ve *officially* made the move from in-office to virtual appointments, how are you going to handle “after” treatment?

Will your clients need to follow up with you in the same waybooking a follow-up through you? Or will you choose to set up recurring appointments?

Well, did we keep our promise?

kimmy schmidt fingers crossed

The current *climate* is changing faster than a 2021 Tesla Roadster off a red light.  To keep up, you’ll need to pivot, re-adjust your offerings or even add a few limited-time-only services.

But here’s the kicker.

Business has, and always will be—changing. It may not be as wildly erratic as you experience during the times of *corona.* But it’ll never be static. And change is… magical. It’s the sparks that ignites innovation and the force that pushes industries to adapt and move forward.

So, be flexible, stay on your toes, look inside for what lights you up… and reach out if you need a helping hand 🙌.