Juggling constantly changing work, family and social calendars can make the task of scheduling a dental appointment quite challenging for even the most organized among us.
LocalMed wants to change that.
Based in Baton Rouge, the software development company that got its start in the LSU Student Incubator has built an online, live-scheduling platform that gives patients the ability to find dentists and book appointments 24/7.
Keith English, LocalMed’s CEO, says this benefits both patients and providers.
“From the patient’s side of the equation, LocalMed gives you the ability to choose an appointment that fits in with the rest of your life. A patient can connect and schedule with their existing dentist or, if they don’t have a dentist, locate and schedule with a dentist of their choosing,” he says. “For providers, LocalMed allows patients to find a dentist’s profile and book appointments 24 hours a day instead of just during office hours. Providers can use their existing marketing efforts to drive new patients to their practice at any time of the day.”
Unlike other online scheduling services, LocalMed’s platform offers real-time scheduling by connecting directly to a practice’s existing management system, meaning the patient sees the same calendar that the practice sees, so the appointment is set as soon as the patient clicks “schedule appointment.”
As such, LocalMed eliminates lag time and removes the potential for errors, such as double-booking.
Dr. Robert Delarosa, a pediatric dentist who has worked in the Baton Rouge area since 1985, says LocalMed offers “all kinds of positives” to his patients.
“The biggest benefit it has for patients is it gives them the freedom to schedule appointments when it’s most convenient for them,” he says. “They can do it after-hours, after the kids are asleep, when they have more time and can look at everyone’s schedule.”
Dr. Richard Atkins, who has practiced dentistry in Baton Rouge for 32 years, agrees, adding that Local-Med streamlines the process of booking appointments and getting answers to basic questions for both patients and dentists, and provides greater transparency.
“It’s a tool that makes the whole process more efficient,” he says. “It eliminates the phone tag and the back-and-forth of patients trying to find a good time of the day to call, or the practice trying to call and schedule an appointment. And it allows patients to get some of their initial questions answered more readily, like What hours do you work?’ and Will you see my 5-year-old?’ It’s a better use of patients’ time and practice staff’s time.”
LocalMed’s platform also provides an option for patients to create customizable reminders of their appointments via email, text or mobile alerts, or through calendar sync. These reminders help cut down on no-shows.
Similarly, a provider’s office can customize the content of reminders, such as opting to include directions to the office or instructions for a specific office visit.
LocalMed offers both online and mobile applications. Providers use the same platform as patients to promote, track and manage appointments but without taking up valuable staff time. To use LocalMed, practitioners pay a monthly service fee; there are no setup costs. Patients use the service at no cost.
When a provider enrolls with LocalMed, the LocalMed team integrates with the practice’s existing IT system instead of building the system from scratch, although this is an option if the practice prefers to go that route.
While LocalMed does not process insurance, it does match a patient’s coverage with providers who accept that plan. Other dentists also are listed, but the software makes it clear which dentists accept a particular insurance plan.
Delarosa says one of the biggest benefits for practice staff is the insurance verification component. “The software verifies insurance in real time,” he says. “This means [staff] spend less time on the phone on hold and more time focusing on other tasks to help our patients.”
LocalMed also helps promote a dentist’s practice through extensive marketing strategies, such as online banner ads, social media and affiliates, and various forms of media, including billboards, local publications, TV and radio.
LocalMed recently announced a partnership with United Concordia, which with more than 98,700 dentists is one of the nation’s largest dental insurers. Participating dentists will get LocalMed’s service at a 20% discount.
LocalMed’s “schedule now” widget will be located on United Concordia’s Find a Dentist website after Sept. 12, so when patients search their site for a dentist in United Concordia’s network, they will have the capability of scheduling in real time directly from that website, with no need to call the dentist’s office.
“We are partnering with Local-Med to bring the availability of the company’s technology to our network dentists,” says Dr. James Bramson, chief dental officer for United Concordia.
“LocalMed allows patients to schedule appointments with their dentists online. This means they can look and book’ appointments when it is convenient for them. And in the case of a dental emergency, patients will now be able to see a dentist’s availability without having to call multiple offices.”
Scheduling health care appointments online follows a trend in other service industries.
“Sixty-eight percent of all banking is done online,” English says. “If you want to book a hotel, you no longer speak to a travel agent; you go online and pick the hotel that has the best fit for you.”
LocalMed could have located in a number of cities. English says the company ultimately chose to remain in Baton Rouge because of the region’s growing number of technology-focused companies.
While the company’s initial focus is dentistry scheduling, plans call for expanding to include other tools needed to handle more of the appointment process, such as online patient in-take forms. Ultimately, the company also will serve medical doctors as well.
“Patients find it much more convenient anytime they have more control,” English says. “LocalMed provides value to both patients and practices.”