The Why & How of Online Scheduling in Healthcare

When it comes to digital experience, two things that healthcare consumers want are convenience and access - especially when it comes to booking and scheduling appointments. It sounds simple enough when applied to other industries, but with healthcare, online scheduling can be anything but easy. Specialists need referrals, time slots vary from provider to provider, and EHR systems are frustrating.

However, even with all of these obstacles, online scheduling is undoubtedly an excellent idea as it allows patients the type of self-service access and convenience that benefits both the consumer and the health system.

Additional Revenue Streams

Allowing patients self-service access to online scheduling opens up revenue streams previously unavailable to health systems. Accenture estimates that online scheduling could deliver up to $3.2 billion in value to health systems just from the ability to quickly fill same-day appointments, access to schedule appointments outside of regular business hours, and the reduced burden on office staff.

Online scheduling can revamp an entire website, and that’s not only good for a health system’s revenue stream, but also for attracting younger generations who are used to convenience and access.

Generational Shift 

Millennials comprise the largest percentage of the overall population, and compared to previous generations they have the unique distinction of being the first digital natives. That means in order to prepare for a future population who enjoy the convenience and access that digital offers, systems need to align their business in a way that makes digital offerings a priority.

Online scheduling is a big part of that.

We’re already seeing a shift in how consumerism is impacting patient demand and expectations. According to an Accenture survey, 77% of consumers believe the ability to schedule, change or cancel appointments online is important. Not only is it important to adopt online scheduling to meet current consumer needs now, but it is also critical in order to stay competitive in the long-term, as well.

How can a health system take advantage of the benefits of online scheduling without burdening the entire organization?

Looking at EHR integrations is a great start. 

Electronic Health Records

Electronic Health Records (EHR) and EHR systems store vital patient information across the continuum of care. Since scheduling is so crucial to the care journey, it makes sense that scheduling belongs inside an EHR system. Many EHR systems, like Epic and Cerner, offer marketplaces to make it easier to integrate online scheduling with websites or emerging technologies.

In order to join each of these respective marketplaces, an online scheduling tool will need a formal technology partnership. Once an online scheduling tool has been approved and integration workflows are finalized, there’s the challenge of finding the best way to get patients to engage and utilize the online scheduling feature.

That’s where conversation platforms, like chatbots offer a convenient solution. 

Why Use a Chatbot to Schedule Appointments

Conversations are ideal for quickly uncovering and understanding patient needs. After all, it’s how we regularly communicate and chatbots provide an easy-to-use, friendly, and enjoyable experience in a familiar environment. Best of all, patients can start with a tailored conversation that begins with one subject (e.g. locations near me), and then easily transition visitors into a workflow that ultimately leads to scheduling an appointment.

Patients want the convenience of choosing how they schedule an appointment, and for some, avoiding having to make a phone call is preferable. In fact, a 2017 study led by the European Research Institution, SINTEF, titled, Why People Use Chatbots, found that 68% of respondents utilized chatbots for the convenience factor of not having to pick up the phone. 

If we look back at the generational shift occurring, chatbots are already being utilized by Millenials for a variety of transactional tasks in industries like retail, banking, and hospitality. With healthcare's shift to consumerism, the demand and expectations for the same, self-service experience is growing. That’s why technologies, like our chat platform Guide, are partnering with EHRs to digitize the scheduling process in a format that’s familiar, convenient, and accessible.  

To learn more about Guide and our EHR integrations for scheduling follow this link, or reach out to schedule a demo.

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