Now is the Time for Hospitals to Prioritize Online Patient Scheduling
As healthcare consumers increase their demands for convenient scheduling options and competition from major big-box retailers continues to infiltrate the marketplace, online patient scheduling is a must-have patient engagement strategy for hospitals and health systems. Rivalry among healthcare venues is fierce as a growing number of healthcare consumers seek alternative providers who offer the ease and convenience of online patient scheduling. Those who do not provide this technology will not only be left behind – they will be left out.
The Modern Healthcare Journey Starts with Online Patient Scheduling
According to a recent Press Ganey survey, two-thirds of respondents indicated that search engines are their most used digital resource for seeking a new provider. The survey, Consumer Experience Trends in Healthcare 2021, also found that 63 percent of patients prefer to book an appointment digitally versus 37 percent who prefer making appointments by phone.
Online patient scheduling options are critical to capture patients who may begin their healthcare journey using a search engine and want to click through to schedule an appointment easily. Providers should prioritize connecting with patients who are searching online by promoting the convenience of their scheduling systems. According to Press Ganey, patients rely on digital sources more than twice as much as doctor referrals when choosing a primary care provider and will consider approximately three online sources during their selection process. Patients read reviews and often select providers based on other patients’ feedback and recommendations.
But the goal of engaging patients online extends beyond simply offering an internet-based scheduling platform. Providers must have a well-designed, efficient, and easy-to-use online system for setting up appointments with their staff. Stericycle Communication Solutions’ 2021 U.S. Consumer Trends in Patient Engagement Survey found that more than one-third of surveyed patients reported that a poor online experience is a barrier to booking an appointment online.
Ensuring a Positive Experience for Patients Scheduling Appointments Online
By utilizing superior web design that offers filter-and-search capabilities to create an optimal user experience, online scheduling allows patients to book appointments on many or all pages of a provider’s website. When booking an appointment on a website optimized for user experience, patients can easily access scheduling in multiple locations such as the menu, in strategically placed callouts, and the website’s footer. A positive experience booking on a mobile device is also key, with easily navigable and readily accessible calls-to-action, which are important for patients looking for convenience.
Studies have found that online patient scheduling also attracts “digital natives” who indicate that they would switch providers to obtain access to convenient online scheduling. According to Press Ganey, more than 72 percent of millennials and Gen Z respondents said they prefer to schedule a doctor’s appointment online or via an app, and more than 60 percent of people in each of these demographics research healthcare providers using a smartphone or tablet.
Additionally, because it’s available 24 hours a day, online scheduling captures patients at “the moment of intent” if, for example, they can’t call during office hours to set up an appointment. Also, if a patient cancels an appointment they’ve previously booked, the newly opened time slot is quickly available for someone else to re-book, which helps minimize scheduling gaps. Online scheduling also enables to spend less time on the phone and more time with patients, enhancing patients’ in-person experience.
Convenient Online Scheduling is Vital to Patient Acquisition and Retention
It’s clear that hospital systems need to ensure they are providing the best possible patient experience in both online scheduling and in-person settings. In addition to convenient online scheduling options, a suite of communications options is part of what today’s patients want, including
Instructions on preparing for visits
Follow-up questions and/or surveys about the care provided
Wellness information/classes, shared via email, text, and/or phone.
Patient Scheduling Systems Satisfy Consumers and Streamline Provider Operations
As health systems continue to improve the experience, utilizing an online scheduling solution represents a clear opportunity to meet increasing consumer demand, helping you attract new patients, retain existing ones, fill schedules, and improve access to care in the venues and communication channels that consumers want and need.