Bridge the Expectation Gap with Online Scheduling

May 3, 2017

Is your organization missing out on a $3.2 billion market? It is if your physicians don’t offer online self-scheduling.


Amazon Versus Analog

Consider the digital experience consumers now expect when making purchasing decisions in virtually any area of their lives. They can search, compare, purchase, and review online in just a few minutes. Better yet, they can do this anytime and anywhere, thanks to their mobile devices and the always-on internet environment. This can be thought of as the Amazon experience.

Now contrast that experience to what consumers typically encounter in healthcare. They have to call during office hours, Monday through Friday. Then they spend 30% of their call time on hold, according to a 2016 Accenture study. Finally, after an average of eight minutes per call, they might have an appointment with a doctor. This analog experience lags behind consumer expectations, and is unlikely to boost patient satisfaction or physician practice growth.

Perhaps that’s why more than three-quarters of patients want online self-scheduling. Accenture forecasts that by the end of 2019, 66% of health systems will offer it, and 64% of patients will use it. Physician practices that don’t offer online scheduling will lose out to those that do.

The Modern Appointment Process

A recent Google/Compete study indicates that 44% of patients who find physician practices on their smartphone book an appointment. So building an online presence for your physicians is the first step. That includes vital information like location, insurance plans accepted, education, experience, and star ratings with specific patient feedback.

But 55% of all appointments booked online happen outside of normal business hours. To capture consumers browsing potential doctors after hours, your physician practices need online scheduling. Similarly, if consumers need to change or cancel an appointment, a full-featured online scheduling solution will allow them to do so without the usual frustrations for both patients and office staff.

No-shows and unfilled appointment slots can be a drag on practice profitability. But with automated reminders and real-time updates to self-scheduling, you can maximize patient engagement and keep appointment slots filled. Even new patients can be accommodated, as sophisticated rules-based systems differentiate visit length according to type, assign new patients only to certain appointment slots, and much more.

Your staff can also leverage online scheduling to minimize leakage from your health system. For referrals and follow-up appointments between practices or from the hospital, a paper referral increases the likelihood a patient may not follow through. Alternatively, your ER or practice staff can book a patient’s next appointment online, ensuring next steps are covered before that patient leaves your facility.

Taking all of these appointment steps online provides meaningful gains in productivity and efficiency. So online scheduling can improve patient, staff, and provider satisfaction.

A Critical Ingredient for Success

A 2016 Stax study revealed that 80% of consumers would choose a doctor with online scheduling over an identical doctor who does not offer it. Further, Intuit Health found that 40% of patients would consider switching doctors to gain that type of online access.

No, not all patients will give up the opportunity to call and “press 4 for scheduling.” But online appointment scheduling is a critical ingredient to your physicians’ success, now and in the future.

Read our new Innovative Perspectives paper, Bridging the Expectation Gap.

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