Online scheduling: If you’re not offering it to your patients, you need to start asap.
Not to be alarmist, but in the age of Uber and Amazon Fresh, consumers expect to be able to conduct errands online. If you’re not making it as easy as possible for patients to book with you wherever they are, whenever they want, you’re missing conversion opportunities.
And we’re not basing this off anecdotal evidence (though we really like booking appointments online ourselves), we’ve done the research.
Research by PatientPop indicates patients—both current and potential—prefer the convenience of being able to self-schedule.
While 42% of patients would like to ability to schedule an appointment online, versus scheduling by phone, only 17% have that opportunity.
Given the chance to schedule online 24/7, over 34% of new patients were able to make an appointment outside of standard business hours.
When patients have access to online scheduling, 26% are able to choose appointments the same day or the next day, filling empty slots.
Consider these projections for 2019 from a report by Accenture:
As the use of mobile devices continues to expand, it seems logical that medical 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. While users aged 15-44 remained consistent between 2013 and 2015 at 84%, Americans 45-64 years old increased from 73% to 77%. Internet use by older Americans, ages 65 and older, jumped from 51% to 56%.
Another factor that demonstrates more frequent use of Internet and devices is the education level of Americans. In 2015, 58% of people without a high school diploma used the Internet; for high school graduates, the rate was 67%. For Americans with some college or a college degree, Internet use was 83% and 88%, respectively. As device affordability and improved connectivity increase, Internet use rates will continue to climb.
For medical 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 77% of Americans check online reviews before deciding on a medical provider; 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% 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 to $150. If two of ten time slots remain empty each day, the loss is $1000 a week. Combined with an average no-show rate of 23-34%, 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 four minutes. Four hundred minutes equals nearly seven hours, resulting in a full-time position spent entirely on booking. With the average annual salary of $34,000 for a medical administrative assistant, the time might be better spent on other responsibilities.
From the patient’s perspective, reaching someone to make an appointment requires up to eight minutes, with 30% 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% prefer to both 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 scheduling.
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 scheduling now can keep current patients satisfied while recruiting new ones. 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 scheduling are here to stay. In the end, it is a win-win outcome for you and your patients.