The Benefits of Online Appointment Scheduling
Americans are busier now more than ever, and if healthcare organizations want to keep up, they must adjust their systems to complement the on-the-go lifestyles of their patients. One way practices are staying in step with their patients is by streamlining the process that gets the patients in the door. Many have turned to a patient portal to manage patient appointment requests and send appointment reminders. Below we discuss how employing these two features can confront common appointment challenges and generate more satisfied patients, and, ultimately, more revenue.
One challenge healthcare organizations encounter is the large amount of time office staff spend managing new appointment requests. For example, if a small medical facility schedules an average of 75 appointments daily, that staff member will spend approximately four minutes with each caller, or 300 minutes total each day. Not only does this method not maximize the staff member’s time in the office, but it is not professional-friendly since many patients may not be able to take time away from their busy work schedules to call. No alternate contact option potentially leads to no appointment.
In a patient portal, the appointment requests feature allows the appointment-making process to be handled totally online. Further, the requests are patient-driven as they allow patients to select their preferences from a live list of available times generated from the practice’s appointment scheduling system. There are significant financial benefits to streamlining this process as well. Chief Information/Planning/Marketing Officer of Memorial Hermann Healthcare System David Bradshaw said, “We’ve found that patients that go online to schedule services are more likely to have the appropriate insurance coverage and payment capabilities than patients that walk into the ER off the street. The ROI we’ve seen in this area alone has allowed us to pay for the entire platform.”
To effectively implement the appointment request feature, display it on your practice’s website making it easy for patients to find. In addition, tailor the request form to extensively reflect the availability and time preferences, thus minimizing back-and-forth communication. If patients can easily find and navigate this feature individually, this will save your time and theirs.
Another challenge practices encounter is the large amounts of money lost due to patient no shows. According to Physicians Practice, up to $144,000 can be lost in revenue solely due to missed appointments. To cut no show rates, many practices employ reminder phone calls. However, these calls can be time consuming, expensive and inconvenient for busy patients.
Appointment reminders within the patient portal are a great way to decrease no shows and increase revenue and patient satisfaction. In the portal, electronic appointment reminders are sent via email or SMS to remind patients of upcoming appointments. These reminders can also include any additional notes necessary for appointment preparation, including completion of an intake form or fasting for a lab test. The benefits are similar that of online patient requests. Office staff can better allocate their time previously spent making phone calls to other important items, and practices save hundreds of dollars by decreasing cases of patient no-shows.
For best appointment reminder results, practices can choose to send multiple appointment reminders at various intervals (48, 24, or 12 hours before). Most practices opt to send the reminder within 24 hours of the appointment. In addition, sending the reminders via both email and SMS ensure that even the less portal-active patients are notified.
Employing an online online appointment scheduling system, specifically through patient portals can have financial benefits for the organization while making the experience more patient-friendly. Online scheduling allows office staff to better utilize their time and gives patients more freedom to schedule their appointments. Similarly, appointment reminders can reduce the risk of no-shows and speed up the check-in process at the office. In sum, healthcare organizations save money and patients are happy. Win-win.