Most patients call to schedule an appointment with their physician, but that is quickly changing.
In one report, Gartner cites that around 75% of patients rank the ability to book and modify appointments online as important (full content available to Gartner clients).
“In the near term, patient self-scheduling is a market differentiator. In the long term, it will be a commonplace consumer expectation. So, take action now,” the report’s author, Gartner VP Analyst Barry Runyon, stresses.
In this article, we’ll help you understand patient self-scheduling and its benefits, so you can take action for your practice.
Understanding patient self-scheduling
Consumers can book hotel rooms and flights on-demand online, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they want greater control over scheduling their doctors’ appointments too.
With self-scheduling tools, patients can book, alter, or cancel their appointments from their smartphones or computers.
Here are the tools available that make patient self-scheduling possible:
- Patient portals: A growing number of electronic health records (EHR) software vendors are offering patient portals that allow patients to schedule appointments online. These portals integrate with EHR and medical billing systems.
- Standalone systems: There are also standalone cloud-based systems designed specifically for patient self-scheduling. Cloud systems are popular for their lower inital cost, which makes them accesible to practices with limited tech budgets.
Irrespective of the tool you deploy, one way to encourage patients to self-schedule is through targeted campaigns. You can embed email campaigns with a “Schedule Now” option that enables patients to self-schedule.
Benefits of patient self-scheduling for your practice
Patient self-scheduling reduces the chances of patient no-shows, enhances revenue, and improves operational efficiency. Let’s take a look at each of these benefits in detail:
- Reduced patient no-shows: No-shows eat into healthcare providers’ timetables and potential revenue. Typically, patient self-scheduling tools have features that send alerts/notifications/calendar reminders to patients, reducing no-shows. And patients are more likely to show up when they schedule appointments based on their own convenience (within the time slots you’ve provided).
- Enhanced patient experience: When you allow patients to self schedule their appointments, they face fewer annoyances—such as long hold times, back-and-forth communications, and lengthy explanations of their health complaints—than they’d face with conventional scheduling approaches.
- Increased practice efficiency: With the right self-scheduling tools, the medical staff is able to invest more time into other productive tasks than evaluating appointments or creating waiting list of patients.
Case study: Healthcare provider saves thousands with online patient self-scheduling
In 2017, Providence St. Joseph Health booked around 100,000 appointments for its Express Care services, which include on-demand virtual, clinic, and at-home visits. Of all these appointments, more than 50% were booked online.
According to Aaron Martin, Chief Digital Officer at Providence St. Joseph Health, patients loved online self-scheduling and the provider saved thousands of dollars—around $3 to $4 per appointment.
Follow these best practices for effective patient self-scheduling
Cheers if you’ve decided to implement a patient self-scheduling tool in your practice. But consider these best practices to maximize its value.
- Define time blocks for patient visits: Sit with your team to decide on specific time blocks during which you will allow your patients to self-schedule their appointments. Additionally, the support staff can use the remaining time blocks to complete other administrative tasks.
- Use an automated reminder system to remind patients: If the self-scheduling tool of your choice doesn’t offer features for sending out patient reminders, use an automated reminder system to text or call your patients before their appointment. Some systems provide your patients the ability to reschedule or cancel their appointments—up to a specific point in time—by responding to the reminder itself. Be sure patients are aware of your practice’s cancellation policy, which may include a cancellation fee.
- Prepare daily patient waiting lists to accommodate previous cancellations and no-shows: Patient no-shows and late cancellations cannot be eliminated completely—but you can leverage those opened-up time slots. For this, you can maintain a daily waiting list of previous no-shows and cancellations that you can accommodate in the freed-up slots.
- Collect and assess scheduling data: If you want to reduce patient no-shows/cancellations and maximize your practice’s productivity, analyze your scheduling data regularly. This will help you identify no-show/cancellation patterns and determine ways to address the issues.
If you’re planning to deploy a patient self-scheduling tool, start your vendor selection process by calling us at (844) 686-5616 for a free consultation with a medical software advisor. They’ll help you analyze your needs and find the best-suited solutions for your practice.