If you didn’t know that online appointment scheduling is increasing in the medical community, it might surprise you to learn that more than 70% of medical practices are looking to implement an automated booking system by the end of 2021. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise. Even the Baby Boomers and the ageing Gen X are, more or less, computer and mobile tech-savvy and increasingly reliant. We are fast losing the older generation who have little to no reliance on the internet, and the people who are beginning to need the additional medical care that comes with advancing years are the oldest of the techies. Even the Millenials are fast closing on middle age and all the extra medical attention that tends to entail. Virtually everyone wants the convenience of booking, cancelling, and rescheduling appointments online.
Why Patients Need Automated Appointment Bookings
Patients are the core of your clinic or practise; accommodating them is what will keep them coming back to you and ensure the future of your business. There are many reasons for patients to prefer online options as opposed to phoning or calling in.
Everybody wants convenience. We all want the ability to make appointments easily when we want, where we want, when we think of it, and at a time that suits us. We have become very demanding. However, the convenience makes life more comfortable, and as life demands more of us, it becomes a necessity.
How many women only have the time to think about their own healthcare when they’ve finished work, and children are in bed? Would more women remember to get regular PAP smears if they had the convenience of being able to book the appointment when they think of it? It’s only one example, but one worth considering.
Busy & Irregular schedules
The days are long gone when the majority of the workforce held regular schedules—convenience for some demands long hours and irregular schedules from others. Not everyone who needs a doctor appointment booking has the freedom to call at opening time to book the next available appointment that they need.
Dislike of the Phone
In one study, up to 35% of respondents said they would prefer using an online scheduling portal because they dislike using the phone. That’s a significant number of patients who might avoid making appointments or look somewhere else if you don’t offer an online option for appointment booking. Many people have a dislike of the telephone, preferring video calls or text.
Not only do significant numbers of patients dislike using the phone to make their doctor appointments, but part of that reason is also a dislike of sharing their sensitive information. While it’s entirely acceptable for staff members other than a doctor to have access to medical details, not everyone wants to talk about them with anyone other than their doctor.
Sometimes, the only time that people can call to book an appointment is in the middle of a busy commute, car share, or when surrounded by people. Who wants to start talking about their symptoms on a packed train or bus?
Why Doctors Need Automated Appointment Booking
The reasons for doctors and practice managers to need online appointment booking are somewhat different from those of their patients. However, there are some areas where they intersect.
Patient & Schedule Management
An online system for allowing patients access to your schedule is perhaps the easiest way to ensure keeping your patients organised. Patient logins and continuity between appointments all filter into a patient management system. That means nothing gets lost, meetings don’t get forgotten, and reminders ensure that patients show up to their consultations.
Accommodating your patients’ needs regarding appointment booking is just the first step in the patient journey with you. For the best possible patient journey, you need to start on the right note. In much the same way as you would accommodate a deaf patient with a hearing aid, providing a preferred contact method for your patients to book an appointment, is just simple patient care.
Accommodating Remote Medicine
Remote appointment booking paves the way forward for remote consultations and telemedicine. Not every patient needs to come to your clinic for a diagnosis or treatment. Sometimes, listening to the patients and seeing their symptoms is enough to diagnose and propose a treatment plan.
Time and Money-Saving
Purely regarding business profits, an automated appointment booking system will always be cheaper than the equivalent staff costs. How much time does your receptionist spend on phone calls and emails, sending out reminders for check-ups, rescheduling appointments and so much more? Meanwhile, they’re dealing with the administrative side of the clinic business. With a busy practice, likely, you might even have to employ someone separately to deal with incoming calls and appointment booking. Automation could save time and staff costs by reducing the necessity for staff interaction with patients booking an appointment.
And once again, we come back to convenience. This time the convenience of every staff member in your practice. The simplicity of having everyone’s schedules in a single system, accessible from everywhere there is an internet connection. The convenience of managing working hours, holidays and more from that system. Moreover, the ability to integrate a scheduling system with pretty much any specialised patient management system.
Developing Patient Care Into The Future
Every year, the number of tech-savvy adults increases, and the number of non-tech people decreases. This means that demand for tech solutions to everyday needs goes up. No sector can avoid the rising demand for technological solutions. When people can book a table for dinner, a haircut or a meeting with their accountant online, it seems almost ridiculous to exclude medical appointments.
Like any other business, people check reviews of a medical clinic or primary care practice, before making a decision. If you don’t offer the benefit of online appointment booking, and your nearest competitor does, say goodbye to patients.
2020 has been the year when remote options and low contact has made astonishing strides in medical environments.
No one is suggesting complete automation of your patient contact; it wouldn’t work. However, embracing the omnichannel booking and contact environment is the way that things are going. Moreover, including an online automated portal for appointment bookings is a massive part of that.