4 Keys to Successful Online Patient Appointment Scheduling

January 4, 2016

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Consumers are accustomed to digital convenience in every aspect of their lives. How can you implement online patient appointment scheduling as a timesaver for patients and providers?


When it comes to healthcare access, most health systems aren’t currently delivering the ease of use their patients desire. For example, an Intuit report indicates 81% of patients are interested in booking their doctors’ appointments online, and 40% would switch doctors to get online access. But recent research from Accenture reveals that only 40% of the top 100 health systems currently offer patient self-scheduling [PDF] . Even worse, only 11% of their available appointments can currently be self-scheduled.

What should you keep in mind to successfully implement online patient appointment scheduling?

  1. Enhance Access: Give consumers the convenience, control, and decision-making capabilities they demand. That starts with making your organization accessible via the internet’s virtual marketplace. By 2019, patients will book nearly 40% of their medical appointments online. To make sure they book with you, give consumers easy, clean self-service. Create an integrated online appointment-making experience across all your digital properties, from your organization’s website to quality ratings and review sites—like Healthgrades.com and Yelp—to Google search. Syndicate the look, feel, and profile information so consumers have a consistent experience wherever they encounter you online. Clearly listing your physicians’ appointment availability on their profile overview will also enhance their visibility with consumers.
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  2. Increase Efficiency: Online appointment scheduling is inherently efficient for your administrative staff. According to Accenture, each online appointment saves over eight minutes of staff time. By 2019, that will save a combined $3.2 billion in scheduling resources nationwide. So it’s only fair to make the process equally efficient for patients. It should take them less than one minute to schedule a doctor’s appointment online, and they should be able to do it anytime, anywhere from their mobile devices. Consumers currently spend three hours a day online on their smartphones, so ensure the appointment process is easily completed within a small screen. Once they make an appointment, confirm it via their preference of email, phone, and/or text; push appointment reminders via the same methods; and then seek feedback following the appointment.
  3. Maximize Accuracy: Consistent, accurate information is important in three major steps within the patient self-scheduling process. First, consumers are more likely to make an appointment if your physician information is consistent and updated across every web property where they might encounter it. Second, patient-driven appointment confirmation provides fraud protection while ensuring they receive their preferred time slot and provider. Third, patient online appointment scheduling will only save time if it is integrated with your electronic medical records (EMR) system. All appointment details, including patient demographics and preferences, should automatically flow to your EMR and map to existing database fields. By avoiding manual data re-capture, you eliminate unintentional transcription errors, data loss, and unproductive staff time.
  4. Drive Utility: Choose online appointment scheduling software that prioritizes usefulness for both providers and patients. Convenient patient access to appointment scheduling 24/7/365 is a given. But providers also need control over appointment times and details via business rules. For example, a physician may only see new patients at 9am and 11am, may not schedule physicals back-to-back, or may only allow access to same-day appointments to existing patients using the patient portal. Patient demographics should also flow in real-time from the self-scheduling application to the provider scheduling system, so slots don’t get double-booked. Finally, choose an application that automatically sends follow-up surveys post-appointment to increase your volume of online reviews. These patient reviews then drive more appointments, as nearly 60% of U.S. adults consider online ratings to be important when choosing a doctor. Help your patients help others.

    For successful online patient appointment scheduling, give consumers and providers qualities they value: deliver great service, meet their expectations, and make their lives easier.

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