The Online Appointment

By   |  November 8, 2017



Previously we talked about the Distracted Patient who winds up visiting the online profile of a competing provider.  Now we discuss the trends and benefits of Online Appointment Scheduling.

For many years, the typical phone call placed to a doctor’s office goes something like this:

Thank you for calling PRACTICE NAME. If you are a doctor, press 1.  If you are a pharmacy, press 2.  If you are a patient, press 3.”  Etc.

A patient, upon pressing [3] may then be greeted with:

Good afternoon, PRACTICE NAME. Can you please hold?.”  However, the last sentence is frequently delivered as more of a demand than a request.

Patients do not want the above interaction.  When they call from a cell phone, they may be between tasks or in their car.  They may be walking into a meeting at an office somewhere.  They don’t want to wait on hold for someone to come on the line and then start asking them questions.  They don’t want to even call at all in many cases.  Instead, they prefer to do it themselves when they are ready, even at 10 o’clock at night.

And, if they can’t schedule appointments themselves, patients will move to providers who offer online appointment scheduling.  Some statistics:

  • 42% - Percentage of patients who wish they could schedule their appointments online
  • 17% - Percentage of patients currently able to schedule appointments online
  • 11% - Percentage of appointments presently scheduled online
  • 34% - Percentage of appointments scheduled after normal office hours

2019 Forecasts:

  • 64% - Percentage of patients using online scheduling
  • 66% - Percentage of healthcare providers offering online appointments
  • 986 Million appointments will be made online

Healthcare providers simply must adapt to online scheduling.  Most other industries already have.  Restaurants typically use Open Table and similar applications for their reservations.  When was the last time anyone booked an airline flight or a hotel room over the phone?

The process of online appointments does not necessarily require integration with the same scheduling system used for the office.  Even a simple system will help to alleviate appointment bottlenecks at the front desk will do wonders for customer service.  Chances are pretty good that James – the example patient in yesterday’s email – was likely whisked away from his referred provider because he was able to book his own appointment somewhere else.

Next, we discuss patient reviews and the power of patient education content when it comes to search engines.

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