The Importance of Online Appointment Scheduling
For health systems looking to technology to improve patient experience, your website is a one-stop-shop to both engage and convert the modern healthcare consumer using online scheduling. Hesitant to implement online scheduling? It may be costing you business. In fact, over 2/3 of consumers reported that they are more likely to choose providers who offer the ability to book appointments online.
Despite consumer demand, only a third of leading health systems currently offer widespread online self-scheduling for existing patients, and even fewer for new patients. To that end, online scheduling provides a competitive edge to health systems looking to become more consumer-centric and capture growing online demand.
Benefits of Online Appointment Scheduling
Online scheduling is not just a matter of consumer convenience and satisfaction. Putting booking in the hands of the consumer provides tangible financial benefits as well, such as:
Additionally, our customers have seen a host of operational benefits, such as lower no-show rates, higher physician-reported scheduling accuracy, and offset call center volume.
How to Design Your Online Appointment Scheduling Strategy
While the concept is straightforward—allow consumers to book appointments online—there are a number of considerations health systems need to keep in mind when enabling self-service. Not sure where to start? Begin by considering the key questions below:
Just because your offer online scheduling doesn’t mean consumers will settle for any appointment. According to our research, consumers rank a provider’s clinical expertise and accepted insurance as the most important criteria when selecting a provider. To help consumers find the right appointment, provider search must be integrated into the booking workflow, including the ability to specify clinical needs and personal preferences. And keep in mind that these preferences may vary by age group.
You can choose to make online scheduling available within their patient portal and/or publicly on your website, depending on if you are targeting new patients, trying to appeal to your existing customer base, or both. If partnering with a vendor to offer scheduling through your website, look for experience integrating with your underlying EHR(s), a consumer-tested booking workflow, and modern design principles such as mobile-first optimization.
Employed providers on your primary EHR are a common place to start. Consider starting with departments that are especially eager or already have standardized scheduling templates. If you’re interested in including your affiliate network, but do not plan for direct integrations into all EHRs, a block scheduling solution can help expand online scheduling to practices outside your primary EHR.
Time to access is a critical factor for many consumers and situations, driving growing interest in urgent care and retail clinic options. Despite the walk-in option, Piedmont saw significant demand to schedule ahead, with 40% of retail clinic appointments booked online. When including these facilities in your online scheduling strategy, make sure to think about how you'll educate consumers on the benefits and when to take advantage of these are options.
Virtual visits may come to define the future of healthcare, meaning they should be an integral part of your scheduling strategy. For Banner, being able to pivot quickly and offer virtual care booking was a critical part of their COVID-19 pandemic response. To drive consumer awareness and simplify access, integrate virtual visits—whether on-demand through third-party platforms or scheduled with your own providers—into your overarching scheduling offering.
Don’t wait to be found, meet consumers where they are. Just because someone starts their search on Google shouldn’t mean they can’t end with a booked appointment on your site. Self-scheduling should seamlessly integrate with your mobile app, data syndication tools, and virtual assistants to ensure access to convenient booking across your digital assets.
While appointment volume is key, paying attention to indicators of patient experience will help you build a process that earns patient loyalty. Online booking provides an unprecedented view into consumer preferences and needs. Paying attention to search behavior and dropoff will help optimize the process to truly meet consumer needs.
For additional guidance, check out our step-by-step guide to developing your online scheduling strategy.
Engaging Providers Effectively in Online Scheduling Initiatives
While online scheduling may be an organizational imperative, individual provider engagement is essential to success. Our research shows that while providers are open to online scheduling and particularly see the benefit in terms of new patient acquisition, they have concerns about how it may impact their schedule and practice operations (see below).
Here are a few tips on how to earn providers’ trust from the get-go:
Interested in learning more? See how other health systems have made online scheduling a reality or request a demo below.