Failing to reach parity with the consumer experience in other service sectors is a major attrition risk for healthcare providers. Patients expect scheduling, registration and other administrative tasks to match the convenience of their typical online shopping experience. However, too many face obstacles when trying to book appointments and access care. With more than 6 out of 10 patients saying they would switch to a provider that offers a patient portal, making digital channels available is now table stakes for providers. Experian Health CEO Tom Cox encourages providers to anticipate the needs of “digital-first” consumers and allow patients to circumvent the inconvenience of traditional call center booking systems. Self-service patient scheduling software helps providers keep pace with patients’ digital demands. But the case for patient scheduling software goes beyond patient expectations.
Here are 5 reasons to use online scheduling to benefit both patients and providers:
1. Consumers don’t want to go back to pre-pandemic scheduling systems.
Cox notes that: “The pandemic changed patient access significantly due to the need for ’touchless’ and remote tools for scheduling, registration and even care. Those shifts are here to stay, and patient access stands to benefit from that. There is now much greater focus and priority to create a digital experience in healthcare similar to other service sectors — think retail, travel or food service — and the technology exists now to achieve that.”
An April 2022 report by Experian Health and PYMNTS found that 1 in 5 patients chose to book healthcare appointments through digital channels, which makes self-service patient scheduling a smart place to start when thinking about opening the digital front door.
Patient scheduling software gives patients the self-service experience they’re accustomed to with 24/7 online appointment scheduling. By automating provider business rules and scheduling protocols, Experian Health’s omnichannel patient scheduling tools make it easy for patients to schedule care anywhere at any time, using whatever channel they choose.
2. 24/7 self-scheduling increases appointment bookings and reduces no-shows.
A Mayo Clinic study of more than 1000 pediatric medical appointments in 2021 found that self-scheduled appointments were less likely to result in cancellations or no-shows than staff-scheduled appointments. 3 in 10 self-scheduled appointments were booked outside staff scheduler hours, and 9 in 10 were confirmed in a single step.
The convenience of self-scheduling means that patients book quickly and are less likely to end up missing an appointment because of the hassle of calling to cancel. Self-scheduling platforms also offer a way around some of the socioeconomic barriers to care, by offering patients a more flexible way to make plans that fit their circumstances. Patients are seen sooner, leading to better health outcomes and more efficient clinical and administrative workflows.
3. Digital scheduling reduces pressure on staff.
The convenience factor extends beyond patients. Self-scheduling platforms improve efficiency and ease the burden on call center staff, too. As the staffing crisis continues, providers should look to automated solutions to remove bottlenecks, increase capacity and improve the experience for call center staff.
Patient scheduling software offloads call volumes and cuts call times in half. It also gives providers control over their calendars, while integrating seamlessly with electronic medical records and practice management systems. It can also be used alongside patient intake software to help accelerate registration, saving even more valuable time and resources.
4. Embracing digital scheduling gives providers a competitive edge.
As noted, getting patient scheduling right is a crucial element of patient acquisition and retention strategies, and is increasingly important as patient volumes continue to fluctuate.
Sanju Pratap, Experian Health’s Vice President of Consumer Products, says making a strong first impression with easy self-scheduling is more likely to attract new patients and gives providers a competitive edge:
“Does the orthopedic practice down the street offer online scheduling that makes it easy for other providers to refer to them – and easy for patients to schedule their own appointments? Providers that do are going to get new patient revenue and increase patient loyalty. They’re going to keep more of their existing patients if they meet consumers where they want to be.”
5. Patient scheduling software can protect against the unexpected.
A final reason to embrace patient scheduling software is to future-proof scheduling capacity against unforeseen events. During the COVID-19 pandemic, flexible self-scheduling tools helped providers maintain some degree of operational stability as patient numbers surged with each new wave of infections. Augmenting staff numbers simply wouldn’t have been possible in the context of staffing shortages, and would have been impractical to manage during the periods where patient volumes subsided.
There will always be new threats and uncertainties on the horizon, but with the right digital patient scheduling software in place, providers will be well-positioned to face whatever’s around the corner.
Find out more about how Experian Health’s patient scheduling software can help healthcare organizations meet patient expectations, improve operational efficiency and prepare for future patient scheduling demands.