Online appointment booking: If you’re not offering it to your patients, you might want to start.
In the age of Uber and Amazon Fresh, consumers expect to be able to complete basic errands online. If you’re not making it as easy as possible for medical appointment scheduling wherever and whenever patients want, then you’re missing out on growing your practice.
We’re not basing this off of anecdotal evidence, either — we’ve done the research. According to our survey, patients prefer the convenience of self-schedule online appointment booking.
Nearly half (42 percent) of survey respondents say they would like online appointment scheduling on the healthcare website, versus scheduling by calling the practice. However, only 17 percent of respondents said they currently have the option to schedule their appointment online.
Given the chance to schedule online 24/7, about 34 percent of new patients were able to make an appointment outside of standard business hours.
When patients have access to schedule their appointment online, 26 percent are able to choose appointments the same day or the next day, filling empty slots.
We’re not the only ones advocating online appointment booking. Consider these projections for 2019 from a report by Accenture:
As the use of mobile devices continues to expand, it seems logical that healthcare practices should offer a means to directly connect a patient to the provider.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) reported that in 2015, every age group and education level has increased its internet use. Although users aged 15-44 remained consistent between 2013 and 2015 at 84 percent, Americans 45-64 years old increased from 73 to 77 percent. Internet use by older Americans ages 65 and older jumped from 51 to 56 percent.
Another factor that demonstrates more frequent use of internet and devices is the education level of Americans. In 2015, 58 percent of people without a high school diploma used the internet. For high school graduates, the rate was 67 percent. For Americans with some college or a college degree, internet use was 83 and 88 percent, respectively. As device affordability and improved connectivity increase, internet use rates will continue to climb.
For healthcare practices, there is a clear need to accommodate the growing numbers of people who prefer to use their devices to schedule their time. After all, they can already make dinner reservations, order a taxi, and book a hair appointment with a few clicks.
And since 72 percent of Americans check online reviews before deciding on a medical provider, according to Software Advice, it would be a logical step for them to be able to proceed to the provider’s website to schedule. Yet, according to Accenture, only 11 percent of healthcare appointments are currently done online.
PatientPop provides a clear picture of the cost of unfilled appointments. For primary care providers, the average patient visit generates $100-$150. If two of 10 time slots remain empty each day, the loss is $1,000 a week. Combined with an average no-show rate of 23-34 percent, as reported by the American Journal of Medicine, revenue becomes unpredictable.
Then there is the cost of using staff to manually schedule appointments. Using the example of 100 appointments each day, each call requires an average of 4 minutes. Four-hundred minutes equals nearly 7 hours, resulting in a full-time position spent entirely on booking. With the average annual salary of $34,000 for a medical administrative assistant, according to Indeed, the time might be better spent on other responsibilities.
From the patient’s perspective, reaching someone to schedule an appointment requires up to 8 minutes, with 30 percent of the time on hold. For the Millennial generation, this can be a deal-breaker.
Millennials (ages 18-34 in 2016) have always had access to online information. They dislike traditional methods of healthcare; 71 percent prefer to schedule online and to receive digital reminders rather than by phone contact. They can be a challenging group to engage and retain without offering the convenience of online appointment booking.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the current American population of 314 million is on pace to reach 400 million in 2051. By 2030, one in five citizens will be age 65 or older, needing more appointments for their specific medical management. These increases will be reflected in the number of people seeking medical care.
Processes will need to be streamlined to adapt to appointment requests. Integrating online appointment booking now can keep current patients satisfied while recruiting new patients. Staff resources can be directed to in-office patient care and assistance.
Growing your practice should include taking advantage of technology to maintain a state-of-the-art online presence. Expectations for convenience and instant medical appointment scheduling online are here to stay. In the end, it is a win-win outcome for you and your patients.
Want more information on the topic of online appointment booking? Check out the blog post “5 reasons healthcare practices should offer online scheduling“
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