Online Scheduling: It’s Not Just for Doctor’s Appointments Anymore
There are more than 1,077,000 professionally-active doctors providing care across the United States. Of those, a little less than half — 562,805 — are specialist physicians. Although sports medicine is one of the fastest-growing of the 160 medical specialties in the U.S., there are myriad others, from orthopedics, dermatology, and neurology to endocrinology, rheumatology, and otorhinolaryngology.
It isn’t only physicians who serve in these specialties, of course. It takes a team to provide high-quality care, including advanced practice providers (APPs) and nonphysician practitioners (NPPs).
Lengthy Wait Times: A Common Patient Complaint
No matter the role or specialty, healthcare professionals deal with a lot of patient complaints, two of the biggest of which are inadequate communication and disorganized operations. Other gripes focus on the feeling of not being listened to, a poor explanation of treatment options, and, most seriously, incorrect, missed, or delayed diagnoses.
The most common patient complaint is excessive waiting times. Not only do patients not like to wait for a long time in their physician’s office before a visit, but they also take exception to waiting days or even weeks for a scheduled appointment.
Before online scheduling was available, patients were required to call their doctor’s office to make an appointment. It takes an average of eight minutes for a patient to schedule an appointment over the phone, and in some cases, individuals are embarrassed to discuss their problem with someone other than their physician.
The scheduling process isn’t only time-consuming for patients. As noted in the study outlined in the 2022 Patient Access Journey Report, less than half of patients successfully booked an appointment on their first call into a healthcare organization, resulting in additional calls and taking up more time and resources.
Maybe that’s why more than 40% of consumers — including 55% of millennials — say they would prefer to book their medical appointments online. What’s more, almost 70% of patients say they’re more likely to choose a medical provider that offers the ability to book, change, or cancel appointments online.
Patient Online Scheduling for Additional Healthcare Services
Meeting preferences is a central tenet of healthcare consumerism, in which patients expect instant access to information that informs their decision-making. That access requires digital health tools that are easy to use and offer a positive patient experience.
Why? Online scheduling is a major deciding factor for patients when choosing among competing options, but these resources must do the job right. According to half of healthcare consumers surveyed by Accenture, a bad digital experience with a healthcare provider ruins the entire experience.
Patient online scheduling isn’t just for doctor’s appointments anymore, though. A bevy of other healthcare services are performed every year, including imaging and laboratory tests and routine preventive screenings. Take a look at roughly how many of the following tests are performed each year in the U.S.:
- Laboratory: 14 billion
- CT scans: 80 million
- MRIs: 30 million
- Colonoscopies: 15 million
- Screening mammograms: 336,000
The Perks of Online Scheduling — for Both Patients and Providers
A key perk of patient online scheduling for medical groups and other providers of healthcare services is reduced administrative burden, which is especially important as the healthcare industry continues to face a staffing shortage. Without the availability of online scheduling, practice staff must answer numerous phone calls while attending to other administrative tasks, all of which can lead to longer patient wait times.
Appointment wait times and scheduling difficulties can negatively affect patient satisfaction, access to care, and patient safety. But, with online scheduling, patients are able to make appointments quickly and effortlessly and overcome common barriers to care, such as limited hours of operation. Maybe you didn’t know that 40% of appointments are booked after business hours.
Other advantages of online scheduling for medical groups and other providers of healthcare services are improved patient retention and engagement, reduced no-shows, fewer appointment gaps, real-time appointment availability, enhanced staff productivity, and increased revenue. For any healthcare practice, utilizing an online scheduling tool helps keep track of patient appointments across specialists and locations and makes managing patient information much easier and more efficient.
In addition to these benefits, patient self-scheduling has proven to be a vital tool in improving care management and adherence and closing gaps in care. Briefer gaps in care often lead to better health outcomes.
How interested are healthcare providers in online scheduling? The Kyruus Provider Perspectives on Digital Access report found that 96% of providers say they are interested in online scheduling. Of those providers, about half (48%) believe offering online scheduling helps keep existing patients in-network, while 42% say it helps them attract new patients.
If you’re considering launching online scheduling, check out our best practices for ensuring a smooth roll-out across your organization.