Online appointing to surge; will you offer it?

January 27, 2015

A recent report from Accenture says two thirds of U.S. health systems will offer self-scheduling services online by 2019.

A recent report from Accenture says two thirds of U.S. health systems will offer self-scheduling services online by 2019.

The report also predicts 38 percent of appointments-that works out to about 986 million appointments-will be self-scheduled by patients online by that time, saving $3.2 billion. Today, only 2.4 percent of all appointments are self-scheduled online. 

Related: 7 financial challenges ODs will face in 2015

“Driven by patient demands for greater convenience and more control, U.S. health systems are adopting digital patient self-scheduling tools to differentiate themselves competitively, improve efficiencies, and enhance patient engagement and satisfaction,” the report’s authors write.

According to the report, a recent Acenture survey found that 77 percent of patients believe that the ability to book, change, or cancel an appointment online is important.

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member Michael Rothschild, OD, says that as our lives become increasingly interconnected with the online world, it is completely understandable that two out of three doctor’s appointments will be made digitally.

“When was the last time you called a travel agent to buy an airline ticket? For most of us, it has been a while,” says Dr. Rothschild exclusively to Optometry Times. “Recently I hung up the phone with a hotel to make my hotel reservation with the same hotel online. I don't know why, I just prefer it.”

According to Accenture, nearly 40 percent of the top 100 healthcare systems in the U.S. currently offer online appointment scheduling, but it predicts that figure will increase to 100 percent by 2019. Of all the remaining health systems outside of the top 100, only 10 percent are offering online appointment scheduling, but Accenture predicts that will rise to 55 percent over the next few years.

Related: Finding and incorporating the right office manager

While online appointment scheduling poses some challenges concerning privacy and security, Dr. Rothschild says optometrists have been ahead of many other areas of health care when adopting this new technology.

“I think ODs are leading the charge in this area among due to our competitive nature. Some have stopped waiting on the perfect solution and use a third party scheduler,” he says.

There are a number of programs that offer online scheduling, including SolutionReach, 4PatientCare, RevolutionEHR, WebSystem3, and Intuit, among others.

Next: Benefits of scheduling appointments online

 

Benefits of scheduling appointments online

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member Justin Bazan, OD, says his practice, Park Slope Eye in Brooklyn, NY, schedules appointments only online. Dr. Bazan says scheduling an appointment is easy and convenient, and he has found his patients are comfortable doing so-and the system is a benefit to his practice, as well.

First, Dr. Bazan says, he doesn’t have to pay for an office employee to book appointments.

“We don’t even have a phone to answer anymore,” he says.

Related: HIPAA in the age of social media

Online appointment scheduling programs offer patients the opportunity to book appointments at their convenience.

“We got a lot of appointments made before and after our normal hours,” Dr. Bazan says. “If they tried to call and we were closed, we probably would have missed out. Not anymore.”

The scheduling program Dr. Bazan uses allows patients to see all of the available time slots in real time. Once they make an appointment, patients receive a confirmation which will import directly onto their calendar and as well as a list of frequently asked questions. Then the patient will receive a text and e-mail reminder 24 hours before their appointment time. All of this, Dr. Bazan says, helps keep his practice’s no-show rate very low.