Recently I spotted an article about online reservations for hospitals and doctors, where patients make their own appointments via the Internet. “Some practices rave about the money and time they’ve saved by allowing patients to schedule visits through the Internet,” according to the American Medical News write-up. “But so far, most physicians aren’t that enthusiastic.”
It turns out that the article was published more than ten years ago when the concept of patient self-appointments was “way out there,” and much of our health care delivery system was primarily physician-centric.
Fast forward to today’s healthcare marketing, where patients are increasingly consumer-minded and empowered shoppers, and the watchwords of patient experience and satisfaction are access, quality and affordability.
In less than five years, hospitals, health systems or physician practices that are still among the “not-so-enthusiastic” or “wait-and-see” crowd will—according to business forecasts—be among the innovation laggards. Better than 60 percent of patients will book their own medical appointments by 2019, according to an Accenture research report.
Both providers and patients share the benefits of digital self-scheduling. The proliferation of smartphones and high-speed Internet access has consumers making reservations for dining-out, buying movie theater tickets, or hailing a taxicab. Individuals now expect the same faster and easier convenience and efficiency in healthcare.
- An online medical appointment can be scheduled in about a minute
- Patients can make, change or cancel appointments at their convenience outside of office hours
- Many patients like and want online or digital communications with their medical providers
- Self-appointment software options also enable automatic reminder notices and reports
- Demand for staff time, for answering phones and appointment setting, is relaxed
And on the provider side, it’s a point of differentiation and quality service that saves costs and is operationally efficient.
What’s your place on the adoption curve? Did you get aboard early with the Innovator group, or are you holding out to be among the Laggard crowd? We’d love to know how this has worked for you…or what barriers still stand in the way.
See the Accenture infographic regarding digital self-scheduling and patient engagement. And see our related article and podcast: Memorial Hermann: Patients Have a Big Appetite for Online Appointment Scheduling.