How Online Appointment Scheduling Can Help Both Practice Staff and Patients

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04/20/2018 in Blog

By Lindsay Sharon, vice president of Physician Marketing at Healthgrades, and Nabeel Meghji, senior vice president of Product Management at Healthgrades

The first and last impressions patients receive from medical practices and health systems usually don’t come from physicians or nurses. They come from interactions with the practice staff who are in charge of answering phones, scheduling appointments, checking patients in and out, and much more.

Office staff are indispensable masters of multitasking and champions of cheer. They verify addresses, phone numbers, allergies and insurance information, as well as update files and input details into patients’ electronic health records (EHR). They also handle billing procedures. Plus, they greet and direct office visitors who aren’t patients. They may even need to triage emergency situations, ensuring their offices are staffed properly and clinicians are available to address patient needs. 

In a recent report released by Healthgrades and Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), the topic cited most frequently in both positive and negative patient reviews was the interaction with staff. These jack-of-all-trades professionals have several responsibilities, and studies show that automating some of their work, like with online appointment scheduling, can free them to focus more on patients in the office.

Convenience for consumers is driving online appointment scheduling.

Online appointment scheduling is becoming more popular. In fact, 25 percent of consumers prefer scheduling appointments with their physicians online, and that number is even higher among millennials.[1]Several studies show that online scheduling is an upward trend:

— 77 percent of patients see the ability to schedule, change or cancel appointments online as important.[2]

— 40 percent of patients would consider switching providers for online scheduling.[3]

— By a 4:1 margin, patients prefer a physician with online scheduling to one without, even if the physician with online scheduling has less availability.[4]

— By the end of 2019, nearly two-thirds of patients will schedule appointments digitally.[5]

By implementing online appointment scheduling, the office staff can save time and be more attentive to patients in their offices.

On average, it takes a patient 8.1 minutes to schedule an appointment over the phone, with 30 percent of the time on hold, and staff transfer 63 percent of calls.[6] [7] Scheduling online takes two-thirds of that time.[8] So, for every 100 appointments scheduled, online scheduling capabilities could save nine hours for patients and staff.

Rather than comparing calendars over the phone, a consumer can hop online and view available times to book an appointment with their physician. If that physician is booked solid, online appointment scheduling can offer other options for the patient.  For example, Healthgrades Online Scheduling solution shows the consumers additional availability for other physicians within the same practices or health systems.  

To make it easier to begin implementation, the solution integrates directly with EHR systems. All of these available options streamlines work for staff while cutting down time they spend on the phone and moving between different systems.

Online scheduling also automates other processes, such as insurance verification, reducing the number of times staff might need to reach out to insurance companies to check a patient’s coverage. It also displays a provider’s accepted insurance online—the most important factor to consumers in choosing physicians.[9]

Furthermore, online scheduling offers the ability to automatically text message appointment reminders to patients. Text messages are more than twice as effective as phone calls in reducing appointment no-shows.[10]

In short, online appointment scheduling can be critical to the patient experience by providing the convenience a modern consumer expects.

To access the recent Healthgrades and MGMA analysis of 7 million patient reviews, revealing what people say about their physicians, click here.

To read inspiring stories about physicians around the country, click here, or click here.

To learn ways physicians can curb wait times for their patients, click here.

To learn how physicians can benefit from online patient reviews, click here.

[2] Bridging the Expectation Gap by Healthgrades

[3] Bridging the Expectation Gap by Healthgrades

[5] Bridging the Expectation Gap by Healthgrades

[7] Bridging the Expectation Gap by Healthgrades