Several of our blog posts this year (see: "5 Best Practices to Acquire and Retain More Patients" and "The Hard Truth About Boosting Patient Acquisitions") focused on the impact of consumerism on healthcare and what it takes to attract today's consumers. While optimizing your search engine rankings and your reviews are critical to help you get found online, getting consumers to take the next step and book an appointment is the ultimate moment of truth when it comes to patient acquisition.
Winning this moment of truth requires understanding and acting on the desires and expectations of healthcare consumers who've grown accustomed to the ease and convenience of online booking of non-healthcare services. Today's time-constrained consumer wants and expects health systems to offer digital capabilities, with 68% saying in an Accenture survey that the ability to book, change or cancel appointments online would increase the likelihood of choosing that provider.
These days, online scheduling can make or break your efforts to attract and gain new patients.
Emma's (hypothetical) story
Consider this scenario: A new health system (let's call it Upstart Health) opens a new clinic down the street from one of your primary locations. Upstart is clearly trying to disrupt the market for healthcare services in your area by offering same-day appointments for a range of services. Better yet, the company lets consumers self-schedule appointments 24x7 online with any of Upstart's providers, including specialists.
Our hypothetical consumer, Emma, wakes up with back pain. She goes online and finds both your facility and the one from Upstart. Both health systems accept her insurance plan and both are conveniently located. However, your facility has an excellent review (4.4 stars) while the Upstart clinic has merely good reviews (3.6 stars). So far, your facility is her top choice, so she decides to make an appointment.
Phone tag is a losing game
Then Emma realizes that a new appointment with an orthopedic doctor at your facility can only be scheduled by phone. But because your facility has really good reviews, Emma is willing to go through the extra effort. She calls and gets a recording saying there is a wait time before someone can be available to help. She chooses to have someone return her call instead. After a few rounds of phone tag, she decides to give up and chooses her second choice, the Upstart facility.
Scheduling with Upstart is fast and easy. Emma books an appointment in a matter of seconds with an orthopedic doctor for the next day. Upstart won this moment of truth.
Scheduling shouldn't have to wait until you're open
Now think about what happens when a consumer like Emma experiences a problem outside of your normal business hours. What if it's a Sunday? Does she wait until the next morning to call for an appointment with one of your providers? She can't see their schedules online, so it's a gamble whether or not there will be an opening for her within a day or so.
With Upstart, she can see the schedules for providers and books an appointment for Monday afternoon. Not having to wait and worry about getting seen lets her focus on resting over the weekend and avoids an unnecessary trip to urgent care or the emergency room. Upstart wins the moment again.
Which would you choose?
With convenient, easy and any time online scheduling across all venues of care (not just urgent care or emergency services) and specialties, more and more consumers like Emma will begin to select industry disruptors like Upstart over traditional facilities like yours. Can you blame them?
An engaging and convenient online scheduling experience not only helps you increase patient acquisition rates, it also can help you improve efficiency and revenue by filling same-day scheduling gaps and cancellations. It's a win-win for both your health system and patients.
Be an Upstart and win the moment of truth
Winning the moment of truth to get the patient to book an appointment with you takes a thoughtful, strategic approach. It's more than simply turning on a basic online scheduling application for primary care visits for existing patients. Any consumer should be able to easily find and book online any service that you offer, not just primary or urgent care, but everything from a mammogram to a bone density screening, from a yearly skin check to a nutrition class for people with diabetes.
Also, be sure to look for a solution that helps you deliver a familiar, intuitive, convenient and easy experience, with built-in intelligence and analytics that guide patients to the most appropriate venue, service and provider for their needs.