What’s great about self-serve scheduling or submitting an appointment request form online is that patients can get on the schedule no matter the time — even 11 at night or on the weekend. In the hectic life of the modern patient, the ability to make appointments online has ceased to be a luxury and is now the norm.
As your practice looks for ways to improve the digital patient experience, this article outlines why online scheduling is a core function of modern patient care.
Online Scheduling is a Pillar of the Patient Experience
Survey results show that healthcare consumers want the option of self-scheduling. In fact, more than half of Millennials and Gen Xers share that they would switch providers if they could have convenience of booking appointments online. Other notable stats about online booking demand include:
- 40% of appointments booked are made after business hours
- 67% of patients prefer online booking
- Average revenue increase of 27% from using online booking systems
Key Features of Medical Appointment Scheduling Software
While it’s expedient to go with the first appointment scheduling tool that comes along, you may want to consider the elements that deliver the best experience on both ends, yours and the patients.
Self-scheduling transfers the efforts of appointment booking from the staff to the patient, effectively minimizing wait times in the call queue. But when a tool is too difficult to use, it compels patients to, instead, phone the office to make appointments or get assistance. Consequently, an appointment scheduling tool that is not easy to use defeats its purpose.
H3: Reliable Patient Reminder System
Your patient appointment scheduling solution should include a reliable automated appointment reminder system so that patients can cancel and reschedule as needed to avoid no-shows. As courtesy appointment reminders become more prevalent, a patient scheduling system without reliable reminder functionality will falter to meet healthcare consumer expectations.
Integration with EHR
Medical appointment scheduling software that seamlessly integrates with the Electronic Health Record (EHR) promotes a streamlined process. With reliable automations, your practice can be reassured that appointment scheduling history – fulfilled, cancelled, or rescheduled – is complete and accurate within all medical records.
Include Multiple Locations
Medical scheduling software that allows patients to book at any location is an option that could meet the needs of some medical practices. For instance, patients – especially a family of patients – may be seeing multiple providers across medical offices within a medical group and would be accommodated with open scheduling.
While offering a self-scheduling tool gives patients the power to make their own appointments, it should not remove your ability to manage the process and adjust settings. To avoid problems on the backend, there may be times that a medical practice needs to set limits on what kind of appointments a patient can book.
Rather than having to shut off self-scheduling if it causes a problem, customizations will iron out these issues. While this does mean that staff will have the task of assisting patients in scheduling these appointments, you have the best of both worlds – online scheduling for patients and organized practice management.
Real-Time Update from Two-Way Integration
Medical practices need an online appointment scheduling tool that keeps availability up to the minute. One that does not automatically update according to slots already filled or blocking off time at the clinic’s discretion will cause conflicts and frustration, especially for patients.
To make an appointment online, patients will (of course) need to use an electronic device. Healthcare consumers are used to doing virtually everything on their mobile devices. An appointment scheduling tool that works just as well on a mobile device as it does on a computer will encourage more patients to utilize it.
Security and HIPAA Compliance
Data security and privacy are of crucial importance in healthcare. Online appointment schedulers must be equipped with the necessary patient data security features to adhere to HIPAA compliance guidelines.
Additionally, tools that collect personal contact information should be clear with users on how it will be used by communicating what the phone number or email address will be used for, including automated messaging and how cancel automated messaging.
Benefits of Using Medical Appointment Scheduling Software at Your Practice
To help keep your schedules full and revenue flowing, patient behavior must be taken into consideration. They may have every intention of booking an appointment, but a lack of convenience tends to lead toward procrastination.
A patient scheduling tool or an appointment request form locks in patient motivation to tend to their health needs. Other benefits include:
- Improved patient engagement – By offering convenient online scheduling, you communicate that your practice encourages patients to make and keep appointments.
- Increased patient acquisition – Offering essential accommodations for the modern life of a patient makes your practice more appealing. As mentioned earlier, the majority of patients would rather choose a care provider that offers self-scheduling online.
- Reduced no-show appointments – The healthcare world has spoken. 72% of patients and 60% of healthcare providers say online booking encourages appointment attendance. When missed appointments are a problem, self-scheduling tools are the solution.
- Cost-savings – An estimated $150 billion (about $460 per person in the US) is lost every year from missed medical appointments. Having an appointment scheduling tool makes staffing more cost-efficient and also can prevent exorbitant medical costs due to a lack of preventive care from missed office visits.
- Improved patient experience – For patients who cannot call during your normal business hours, and do not have time for the back-and-forth with staff about appointment availability, self-scheduling keeps their healthcare on track
Increase Staff Productivity with Medical Appointment Scheduling Software
Without easy-to-use medical appointment scheduling software, an unnecessary burden is placed on both the office staff and the patient. Additional benefits of online scheduling are:
- Improved efficiency – Medical appointment scheduling software allows staff to save time as they can view their appointment calendar and modify it in real-time.
- Reduced call volume – As mentioned before, a core benefit of self-service scheduling is the likely reduction of customer service queue time. This optimizes the workload of your staff as patients no longer have to call, wait on hold, and have staff read the schedule to them – patients can do all the steps independently.
- Elimination of scheduling errors – An automated scheduling tool helps avoid double-booking, or miscommunication with patients. With the tool, patients can receive visual written confirmation of their appointment.
- 24/7 Access – Having online scheduling open outside of working hours allows your practice to capture bookings that could not be made otherwise, thus increasing your office visit volume.
- Reporting record keeping – Tools such as medical appointment scheduling software can provide valuable analytics on the overall activity of your patient population. Also, record-keeping is needed for audits, patient reviews, and patient follow-up care. Tips for Training Your Staff on the New System
Employees are often resistant to change, but by demonstrating how new tools will make the workday easier, you encourage buy-in. How well you are able to “sell” your staff on the new tool, in turn, motivates them to encourage patients to use it more often.
Making the training process a positive experience for your staff and showing them how easy it is to use from the patient’s perspective positions your practice for effective utilization of the medical appointment scheduling software.
Summary: Benefits of an Online Appointment Scheduler
Clearly, an investment in an online appointment scheduler is worthwhile for both healthcare professionals and patients. Convenience, patient engagement, and cost-savings are just a few of the benefits.
If your practice does not already offer patients a way to initiate appointments online – either with a user-friendly online appointment request form or scheduler, you are more than likely leaving revenue on the table. However, a tool that does not work well will create frustration for patients, leading to more work for staff when it should be doing the opposite.
Keep Patients Engaged with Convenient Scheduling Tools and Other Digital Enhancements
Every day, over 4,000 healthcare providers meet the public on a website designed by iHealthSpot’s expert teams. Our mobile-friendly, intuitive, and easy-to-navigate custom designs maximize exposure and profitability. Additional patient-centric enhancements we provide are:
- Secure online bill payment
- Patient engagement buttons such as a link to the patient portal
- Secure patient forms
- Video integration
- ADA-accessibility tools
- Custom maps and locators
Learn more about how we can make your medical website optimized for the patient experience.