Yalantis›Blog›Insights How to Enable Appointment Scheduling for Your Website or App

You may be surprised by the variety of on-demand apps that have online appointment scheduling as one of their core features. Just look at Seamless, TaskRabbit, ShortCut, Squire, and, surprisingly, even Uber. Appointment scheduling makes it much easier and more convenient for people to find and connect with professionals. Booking appointments online has become a breakthrough feature for health insurance companies like Oscar, driving sales and virality.

However, there are still a lot of sports centers, private clinics, cleaning companies, beauty salons, schools, and other organizations that schedule meetings over the phone, manually add bookings to Google Calendar, and register clients in an Excel file that regularly breaks.

These procedures are time-consuming and often lead to mistakes or even monetary losses. More than that, by staying offline, companies are missing out on a giant piece of the cake: online bookings allow businesses to get a significant revenue increase and a more stable client flow.

Booking_online_stats

[Statistics of booking online during vs after working hours]

As you can see in the graphic above, by simply allowing users to book online when business hours are over, businesses can expect a revenue increase of 30% to 45%, depending on the industry. But scheduling appointments online is not a single feature. It’s a complex solution that:

  • drives more sales
  • helps retain and gratify clients
  • streamlines the management of clients, employees, and appointments
  • brings more accuracy to reports
  • saves a lot of time and money

This is why a complex appointment scheduling functionality can easily become part of a company’s official website or loyalty app – for example, for a chain of beauty salons all around the US. Let’s see what your appointment scheduling software should be able to do.

Booking appointments

Booking online is actually the tool to drive you more sales. Therefore, online bookings should be simple and convenient. Your clients will directly interact with your booking service on your website or in your app, so you should give them a detailed listing of your services and service providers, plus dates and times for them to choose from.

In order for users to see your services, service providers, and schedule, you’ll need your own custom content management system. This system should contain information about your services, booking times, the duration of each service, prices, pictures, and descriptions. The system should also assign employees to these services. Some of your clients might not have any preferences among service providers, so it would be a good idea to allow the option of booking with any available service provider. As possible technical solutions, you could use the Strapi framework that’s based on Node.js or the ActiveAdmin framework for Ruby on Rails. Let’s look at the service management tool provided by one of the top appointment scheduling apps, Simply Book:

Adding_a_service

[Adding and editing services in Simply Book]

After a customer selects a service, service provider, and time, they can complete the booking, scheduling a single or recurring appointment (sometimes users need to visit a number of classes and trainings, for example). To complete the booking, the customer needs to enter their contact details and, if necessary, add a comment to the booking to clarify details. There are two basic types of booking flows:

  • Guest bookings, in which a user enters their name and an email address or phone number but doesn’t create a profile. With this method, users have to enter their contact details every time they book an appointment
  • Bookings through a user profile that can be used for logging in to the app and for getting personalized offers and discounts, tracking bonuses, and more.

To let customers create user profiles and register with your service, you can integrate with Facebook and Google. You can also offer users simple registration via email

or phone number. More options to use are SMS or voice verification APIs by Sinch!, Twilio, or Nexmo to verify a customer’s phone number. A great idea would be to allow users to add confirmed bookings to their personal calendars (Google Calendar, iCalendar, Outlook, Yahoo) right from the web or mobile app interface. For clients that don’t use any calendar apps, you can give an option to get an SMS that reminds them of the appointment some time in advance (consider adding options like 2 or 4 hours before). To send SMS texts to your clients, you can integrate Twilio or Nexmo.

You can also let multiple users register for the same appointment if you’re providing services like math or yoga classes, fitness trainings, or makeup workshops to groups. Here’s an example of the Acuity Scheduling interface to add a group class.

Adding_a_group_class

[Adding a group class in Acuity Scheduling]

Don’t forget to add prepayments, package deals, or subscriptions for group appointments. We’ll give more details on payments below.

Ensure that appointments aren’t booked by accident, which could lead to your losing precious time and money. And allow users to reschedule or cancel appointments. This way other clients will be able to book the open slots and you won’t lose money at the last moment. You should also give users a tool to explain why they’re canceling or rescheduling. This way you’ll collect user feedback and can improve the quality of your service.

Managing appointments

It’s a good idea to keep all data about your bookings within a single system. Keeping track of appointments is way better with a custom cloud calendar, which can show pending and scheduled appointments, estimate the workload of employees, and show when they’re available. If you already use a certain tool or calendar for managing bookings, think of integrating it and importing all of your previously created bookings to your appointment scheduling app.

Square Appointments is just one example of a comprehensive appointment scheduling calendar for businesses. Using the cloud-based Square Appointments calendar, businesses are able to see all current and upcoming bookings, check the details of appointments, and approve and cancel them manually, if necessary. If your employees can manually approve and cancel appointments, they should mention their reasons for cancelling.

In Square Appointments, managers can choose among different types of notifications when manually approving appointments and informing that an appointment is successfully scheduled. They can even add personalized text to these notifications.

Accepting_and_declining_client_appointments

[Accepting and declining client appointments in Square Appointments]

Managers should also be able to manually add new appointments to the system, as people may still use the phone to sign up (for example, for a doctor’s appointment). Moreover, manually adding appointments can be useful if you need to add appointments that were made earlier but somehow missed.

Managing staff

Businesses like hair salons often have several service providers (in the case of hair salons, stylists) that customers can choose from. This is why it’s important to have a tool to add, delete, and edit the list of service providers. Simply Book offers a custom solution that allows businesses to create pages for each service provider, including their name, contact information, and photos. Businesses can edit, hide, and delete profiles.

Different employees in your company may have different goals and tasks. That’s why your appointment scheduling tool should support different user roles:

  • admin – full access to all services, schedules, service providers, clients, management sections, tariffs, payments, and settings
  • senior employee – access to all service providers, schedules, and clients
  • employee – access to their own schedules and clients
  • viewer – access to view some schedules and client details or any other limited information

These roles are just examples, and you can develop your own with a more or less complicated hierarchy.

One more good idea for businesses with multiple employees is to integrate with an HCM (human capital management) system like BambooHR. An HCM system will show you the workload of your employees and help you properly distribute time slots between your workers when some are on sick leave or vacation. For instance, let’s say Jack, your hairdresser, takes two weeks off to visit his family. Your HCM system notifies you and your employees that Jack is going on vacation so you can inform his clients and assign them to other hairdressers.

Another example of using an HCM system is tracking your employees’ work time. Let’s say you own a cleaning company and all your workers have to check in with an electronic badge when they come to work. Your HCM system can let you know if an employee is late so you can contact your clients and let them either choose another employee or wait.

Managing clients

Every business wants to turn its customers into regular, long-term customers. To do this, service providers need a powerful tool to find, register and contact users, inform them of new services, use the obtained user contacts for marketing purposes. All of that can be done with the help of a customer relationship management (CRM) system that provides information about your clients, their purchase history, and notes from employees.

One option is to build your own custom CRM system with custom fields, which might take some time. Another option is to integrate an advanced CRM solution like PipeDrive, Salesforce, or HubSpot to better interact with clients and know the actual number of sales accounting for no-shows and canceled appointments.

You should be able to add clients to the system manually or import client information from an existing Excel file or Google Sheets document.

With all this information in hand, you can easily nurture your customers with personalized emails, inviting them to an exclusive workshop with a special discount, for example. And for marketing purposes, you’ll definitely appreciate integrations with:

  • email services like MailChimp to send email campaigns;
  • customer engagement services like ReferralCandy to hold referral campaigns;
  • social media networks like Facebook and Instagram to book appointments and advertise on social networks.

Receiving payments

You can accept online payments by integrating with Braintree, PayPal, Stripe, or Square. Find out more about integrating a payment gateway into your web or mobile app in our exhaustive guide.

Remember that there could be different scenarios for each separate service you provide as a business:

  • requiring full payment or a deposit for services that are often canceled at the last moment, like English classes and other types of tutoring
  • allowing to pay later for services ike cleaning or nursing that aren’t often canceled
  • paying with promo codes and bonuses, which are particularly good for recurring appointments like fitness training and yoga classes
  • tipping for services like hairdressing and taxi rides

To accommodate these payment options, you’ll need to develop a custom tool to choose the payment processor, assign the payment to a service, select the price, allow promo codes.

You should also think of cases when an appointment is scheduled and paid for but later is canceled before it actually happens. In this case, think of ways to refund the client. The top players on the appointment scheduling market don’t provide an automatic refund feature, as the number of canceled and paid bookings is very low. However, when an appointment that was already paid for gets canceled, solutions like Acuity Scheduling send you an automatic email with details on the canceled booking and payment. Knowing when and how the payment was made, you’ll be able to refund the customer manually.

But online payments are just the tip of the iceberg, as a lot of businesses receive money offline when users check out through a cash desk. Therefore, businesses need a point of sale. Square offers its own tool for offline customer checkout. Square allows you to charge a client for a service and include extra services or discounts in the same payment.

Customer_checkout

[Customer checkout in Square Appointments]

You can also consider creating your own custom tool to provide clients with service bundles, gift cards, gift certificates, subscriptions, discounts, and special offers. Let’s check out the Simply Book tool that lets you create custom gift cards, name them, choose a service, and choose the currency to pay with:

Creating_gift_cards

[Creating gift cards and vouchers in Simply Book]

Analyzing business performance

To know how well your company is performing, you’ll surely need an analytics tool that provides you with data on:

  • total bookings
  • number of booked appointments by service and service provider
  • number of canceled appointments by service and service provider
  • number of rescheduled appointments by service and service provider
  • payments by service and service provider

If you send promo materials to users via email or SMS, you might also consider a report on the results of email and SMS campaigns.

In most cases, web apps for appointment scheduling come with their own custom analytics tools that are simpler to use than Google Analytics, which is quite difficult to set up. Below is an example of a report by Simply Book.

Statistics_in_Simply_Book

[Statistics on service providers in Simply Book]

How can you reduce no-shows and cancellations?

When you allow clients to book online, there’s always a risk that they’ll schedule an appointment but not show up. Medical clinics figure the probability of a no-show at between 5% to 30%. These numbers may vary for different service providers, but no-shows still remain the main revenue drain.

For now, the best way to lower the no-show rate is to develop a proper cancellation policy – and users need to agree with it when sending a booking request. For example, you can restrict the time to cancel an appointment or charge a deposit that isn’t refunded in case the appointment is cancelled (make sure you mention that in the service terms and conditions).

Waitlisting can help you fit in other people when there are no-shows, allowing another client to book an appointment if the person who originally booked doesn’t come on time. One more option is to switch to subscription or package deals after one or two appointments. Simply Book has a special integration to embed the cancelation policy in a service provider’s site, so you might think of using it.

Appointment scheduling can be easily implemented in a website or an app. Moreover, there are a whole lot of additional tools like CRM, HCM and others that can significantly enhance the booking experience for both clients and businesses.We’ll gladly help you add booking functionality to your site or application.

Aspects to Consider When Developing a Mental Health App

Anyone who decides to build a mental health app faces challenges with understanding the functionality, design, and psychological components necessary to provide the most benefit to users.

Mental health is a sensitive subject requiring a special approach. Even doctors who have been practicing for years wonder how to apply their knowledge and experience to the development of mental health apps. An app’s design may alienate users, or in-app mechanisms may not motivate them enough to overcome a mental health problem. Users might also abandon an app if they feel they aren’t receiving the support they expect. The list of possible issues goes on and on.

In order to develop healthcare apps that meet many people’s needs, it’s important to find all-around UX solutions. The purpose of this article is to help you find them.

Mental health app target audience

People all around the world suffer from depression, behavioral disorders, and mental illnesses. Many of these individuals can’t afford traditional therapy, worry about the stigma of in-office treatment, or don’t have access to this treatment for various reasons.

Recent statistics collected by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) show that 40 million adults in the US suffer from anxiety disorders. Worldwide statistics show that nearly 75 percent of people with mental disorders go untreated in developing countries, which proves the necessity of accessible and effective solutions for treatment.

On the other hand, many mentally healthy people want to find internal balance and become happier. Some people both with and without mental illnesses have already discovered the benefits of mHealth solutions for mental health. These solutions can be an alternative to therapy as they’re lighter on the wallet, available for all smartphone users, and ensure greater privacy.

According to research by digital due diligence firm onefourzero, in the UK, demand for mental health apps increased by 566 percent between 2014 and 2018. The success of apps like Talkspace, with its more than one million registered users, demonstrates the prospects of mobile mental health solutions for businesses.

Categories of mental health apps

The first thing for a business to decide when building a mental health app is what their app should focus on. This decision will affect all logic of the app and will be critical for its development and subsequent success.

Mental health apps can be designed for different age groups and genders. For instance, Mind Shiftis tailored to young people, taking into account the psychological characteristics of this age group. However, some mental health apps target all age groups and genders.

Mental disorder apps are tailored to the treatment of certain mental illnesses. There are also mental self-improvement apps designed to improve the psychological state of mentally healthy people. Mental health apps can also be dedicated to anyone with mental health needs: mental health apps for all. Let’s look at the differences and peculiarities of apps in these three categories.

The-Mind-Shift-app

[The Mind Shift app]

Mental disorder apps

There are literally thousands of apps on the market created for people living with depression. Some are built on the principle of exchanging messages with doctors, while others offer tips, mood training programs that people can do on their own, and elements of gamification. The depression app MoodTools takes depression seriously, even ensuring a suicide safety plan is in place in case of a crisis.

Besides depression, there are various disorders such as schizophrenia. The market also offers apps tailored to these mental illnesses.

However, doctors claim that apps designed for people with psychological disorders are ideally a supplement to traditional therapy; unlike apps for mentally healthy people, apps for people with psychological disorders must have doctors on board. These in-app professionals should be responsible for providing specialized support 24/7, thereby bringing maximum benefit to users.

In addition, apps for people with mental disorders often connect people sharing the same diagnosis, building communities. This helps users share feelings with those who will understand and support them.

Mental self-improvement apps

Mental health apps can be created for mentally healthy people wanting to monitor their mood swings, cultivate positive thinking, and break bad habits.

Meditation is often placed at the heart of these apps. For example, Calm applies different meditation techniques as its core feature, since many people find them effective for handling stress and relaxing.

Some existing solutions for mentally healthy people also offer in-app psychologists for those who want to enlist the support of professionals to overcome psychological problems.

In general, apps for mentally healthy individuals can be divided into general mental health apps and apps for addiction recovery.

General mental health apps. These apps enable users to enhance their self-awareness by controlling their mood, maintaining good habits and breaking bad ones, and cultivating positive thinking. For example, What’s Up? provides more than 100 questions to recognize your feelings and a Thinking Patterns page that helps you overcome negative thought patterns. The 7 Cups of Tea app has free trained “active listeners” available, who volunteer to care for people needing psychological help.

The-What’s-Up-app

[The What’s Up app]

Apps for addiction recovery. The main purpose of these apps is to help people beat bad habits such as drinking, smoking, and taking drugs. Additionally, these apps allow people to track how much time has passed since they started fighting a bad habit. Twenty-Four Hours a Day, based on the namesake bestselling book, offers twelve steps to finally get rid of a bad habit.

Stress and anxiety apps. These apps specialize in helping people struggling with stress and anxiety. By providing 24-hour anxiety toolkits and diaries, they enable users to track and document thoughts that provoke restlessness. For instance, CBT Thought Record Diary claims to help users make long-lasting changes to their patterns of thinking and behavior.

Mental health apps for all

One app can be tailored to both mentally healthy individuals and those who suffer from serious mental disorders. Some mental health apps offer a range of services from doctors who provide scheduled care. For instance, Talkspace has more than three thousand licensed therapists available via text, video, and voice call.

After you’ve decided on your app’s specialization, the next step is to define the app’s functionality built around the core value it will deliver: provision of mental health services.

What features will make an app effective at solving people’s mental health problems?

There are a variety of tools and techniques that can be applied to modern mental health apps, including cognitive-behavioral and acceptance-commitment therapies, mood training programs, gamification, customized settings, and forums.

So as not to get confused by this great variety and not to offer redundant functionality, it’s best to draw a plan explaining how your app will handle a user’s problem. Each step of the plan should be matched to relevant features.

We’ve identified the essential features of a number of top-notch, feature-rich mental health solutions that have onboard therapists and are tailored to self-care. Some or all of the four following features may be implemented in a mental health app for healthy people and for those with mental disorders:

Self-monitoring. Mentally healthy people mainly use mental health apps to explore their mood patterns and handle stress, while people with serious mental disorders also use these apps to track their symptoms and progress. RR: Eating Disorder Management is much appreciated by users, as it helps them conduct self-monitoring research and record meals, thoughts, and feelings.

The-RR:-Eating-Disorder-Management-app

[The RR: Eating Disorder Management app]

Notifications and reminders. Notifications offer tailored suggestions, encouraging self-monitoring. Reminders suggest that users practice relaxation, go out for a walk, and do other things that are good for their psychological state. Busy users find it helpful to get notifications reminding them to perform mental health exercises. However, a too-high frequency of notifications is likely to annoy users, as psychologists warn that constant notifications are a toxic source of stress.

Sharing. This feature enables users to share on social networking sites to get support from friends or share directly with third-party healthcare providers, family members, and caregivers. iMoodJournal is highly rated by users for its Sharing Moods feature, which allows people to share their moods on social media, export their data in different formats, and send it via email.

Support groups. Lots of people find support groups helpful for solving their mental health problems. By sharing your experience in a safe and confidential setting, you can gain hope and develop supportive relationships. Users can take part in discussions with people sharing their psychological problems. These groups are usually monitored by a mental health professional. For instance, What’s Up provides open forums for discussion between users.

Though there are apps with in-app doctors, a web-based mental health service that provides all the information needed by patients and therapists is preferable. The following list of features refers to apps that have onboard therapists:

Matching clients with therapists. Based on initially obtained information from a person seeking a consultation, a matching algorithm will recommend suitable doctors to choose from. Talkspace provides a welcoming therapist who, during a conversation with a new user, matches them with the most relevant doctor by asking a set of questions.

The-Talkspace-app

[The Talkspace app]

Dashboard for therapists. These dashboards are usually available on a provider website. They’re specifically tailored to therapists and allow them to manage cases and record patient progress to keep all information in one place. This information is received from patients through their smartphones by means of customizable surveys and journals tailored to a disorder or problem. This data is securely forwarded to the therapist’s web-based dashboard and shown in the form of understandable reports. A therapist can look through these reports before the session or together with the patient.

Text/audio/video messaging and chats. Communication within an app is usually performed via text messages, which doctors are obliged to reply to a fixed number of times per day. A mental health app can also provide communication with therapists by means of audio and video messages as well as live video and audio sessions, allowing the patient to choose the most comfortable communication channel.

Privacy and confidentiality of mobile apps for mental health

Reliability is critical when it comes to creating a successful mental health app. One of the reasons why people prefer medical mobile applications for mental health to traditional therapy is that they’re considered safe. The privacy of an app helps individuals minimize the number of people who know their sensitive information.

There are various regulatory guidelines for mobile mental health providers to take into account. The following are important components to consider for your app’s safety and reputation:

HIPAA compliance. When it comes to health app development, it’s often tricky to determine if the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules apply. To figure that out, answer the following three questions:

  • Who will use the app?
  • What information will it contain?
  • Will the app be used by a covered entity (doctor, hospital, or health plan)?

Most mental health apps on the Google Play Store and the App Store don’t fall under HIPAA. This is because these apps are tailored to a patient’s personal use – don’t imply sharing private information with covered entities and don’t contain PHI (protected health information).

A healthcare app becomes subject to HIPAA if it includes protected health information (PHI), such as information about a user’s physical and mental conditions, digital healthcare services, payment details, and other information that can be traced back to a specific patient. If a covered entity uses an app, that app will also most likely have to comply with HIPAA regulations.

 

GDPR privacy standards. Client data must be stored in an anonymized form according to GDPR requirements, a set of European regulations on how businesses must manage personal data. A company that’s based, for example, in the US and has clients in Europe needs to comply with GDPR regulations to avoid penalties.

Regulatory guidelines. Mental health services must be provided only by licensed therapists in order to avoid criminal and civil penalties. In-app therapists also have to be acquainted with federal and state laws (in the US), as mental health practices are regulated at the federal and state levels. If you’re not sure about what regulations your app should meet, use this interactive mobile health apps tool designed by the Federal Trade Commission.

Encrypting app data. Stored or shared data has to be encrypted at all stages to meet guidelines. Encryption implies translating data into another form or using a secret code to provide access to this data only to assigned people who have the key or password.

Passcodes, usernames, and biometrics. A username and password allowing a client to log in to their account adds security to an app. Biometric authentication techniques such as fingerprint and iris scans, facial recognition, and voice scanning are a step toward sophisticated security of mental health apps.

How mental health apps bring profit

The most popular ways to monetize an app are ads and paid downloads. It’s also common practice to attract new users to an app by offering a free trial period. For instance, Calm grants a 7-day free trial to allow people to weigh the pros and cons of the app and website services. However, there are also two other options for getting revenue from your app. They’re explained in detail in one of our previous articles as variations of the freemium model. Let’s have a quick look at them:

In-app purchases. In this case, most of the app’s features are free, but a user can buy upgrades or additional items. For example, MoodTools offers paid premium features such as a generous amount of educational materials on different types of depression.

Subscriptions. This revenue model involves regular payment for constantly updated content. For example, Calm receives revenue from its premium plans, which offer more guided meditations, a library of Sleep Stories, masterclasses, and so on. Talkspace is also a monthly subscription service with three paid therapy plans to choose from.

The-Calm-Premium-Content

[The Calm Premium Content]

More important points to consider for mental health app development

In-app human support. If an app offers psychiatric assistance, it’s important to provide an opportunity to receive the support of doctors. This might mean the ability to get in touch with specialists or with a support system in case of an attack of suicidal thoughts or any other emergency situation.

Clinical basis. There are tried and tested therapeutic approaches that clinicians use to treat mental disorders. It’s essential to choose one approach, carefully study it, and implement it in your app to bring value for clients and build an effective mental health solution.

Accurate and up-to-date information. It’s important for a mental health app to contain verified information. There are many apps on the market that provide information that’s either years out of date or plain false. Inaccuracies vary, from the use of outdated treatment recommendations to advice for those with bipolar disorder to drink alcohol during a manic episode. Offering clients false or dangerous information is also dangerous to an app’s reputation. Don’t forget the first rule of medicine: do no harm.

Comprehensive testing. Usability testing is even more important for health mental apps than for other apps. Some mental disorders interfere with people’s ability to concentrate, so usability testing that involves participation of the target audience is often justified.

Understanding the target audience. A mental health app should be designed to engage customers and meet their needs. To make sure your app does this, answer the following questions:

  • What will motivate the target audience to become regular users?
  • How and how often will the app send notifications to users?
  • How will the app be interwoven into a user’s daily routine?
  • What might annoy users (frequent surveys and controversial questions, for instance)? How can we avoid this?
  • What other factors related to the target audience — cultural, financial position, background, age — must be taken into account?

Design and sounds. Visual and audio components as well as usability are a matter of the utmost importance for a mental health app. The app should calm down a user, and should therefore be aesthetically pleasing and easy to use. For example, #SelfCare, with its self-care game in which a user virtually chills in bed, has engaged guest artists to work out the design and constantly update it.

Motivational triggers. People often download a mental health app to achieve goals they can’t achieve on their own. This means an app should ensure achievement awards, such as digital coins and badges, as components of gamification, giving users a sense of accomplishment. Smiling Mind awards badges for some meditation-related achievements. However, motivational triggers don’t necessarily apply to a mental health app, as their availability depends on the problem the app is designed to solve. Some apps, such as #SelfCare, calm down a user by assuring them that there’s no purpose and no obligations — only enjoyment.

Positive communication. People seeking psychological help need support and acceptance, and they may count as an insult any ambiguities. Thus, if an app is intended to have a social community, it has to be monitored by moderators to make sure that all interactions are delicate and positive.

If you consider all of these nuances, your app is likely to be in demand with people seeking psychological help. If you’ve come up with an idea for an app for solving mental health problems, our software development company will gladly contribute to its realization.