This is the second in a series of blog posts that will highlight how the patient journey has evolved since the onset of COVID-19. This series will take you through the changes that impacted every step of the patient journey and provide strategic recommendations to move forward. In this post, we explore how 24/7 self-scheduling can help healthcare providers adapt to the post-pandemic digital landscape. To read the full white paper, download it here.
If there’s one digital tool that punches above its weight in the healthcare industry, it’s online self-scheduling. This simple concept – allowing patients to book their own appointments online – resolves many sticky issues throughout the entire patient journey. It drives patient satisfaction, acquisition, and retention. It boosts staff efficiency and smooths out bumps in the revenue cycle. No-shows and delayed care can be minimized, leading to reduced costs and far better health outcomes.
All of that was true before the pandemic. However, when COVID-19 hit, self-scheduling was a gamechanger. When more patients wanted to manage their healthcare online, and staff were forced to work remotely, online medical scheduling was convenient and safe.
Now, the return on investment is even higher. As patients struggle to overcome growing barriers to care, and providers wrangle with soaring volumes of returning patients, the digital front door must remain open. How can providers leverage the benefits of 24/7 digital self-scheduling seen over the last year or so, and create a digital patient experience that’s fit for the future?
Consumers schedule appointments differently now – and they don’t want to go back
Healthcare has been playing digital catch-up to other industries for much of the last decade. Consumers have long grumbled about archaic registration processes and the absence of digital tools seen frequently in other sectors. The urgent reconfiguration of the healthcare consumer experience over the last year means many of those missing digital options are now available. Instead of calling to make an appointment during office hours, patients can use 24/7 online scheduling platforms – accessible any time, from any device.
Having had a taste of convenience and control, consumers expect online scheduling to continue beyond the pandemic. According to a new Experian Health study, nearly three-quarters of consumers want to continue to schedule their own appointments online. More than eight in 10 prefer an online or mobile-related registration experience.
Rather than wait in a long customer service queue, patients can make, cancel, or reschedule appointments with the push of a button. Patients of all ages like having a flexible and frictionless way to manage their care, so why would they choose a provider that doesn’t offer online self-scheduling as part of the mix?
24/7 self-scheduling reduces barriers to care
In addition to meeting consumer expectations, 24/7 self-scheduling also helps providers overcome many new and existing consumer challenges in the wake of the pandemic. Patients can be blocked from accessing the care they need for all sorts of reasons – financial worries, lack of transportation, lack of time to phone and book appointments, and/or cultural barriers to seeking support. As with many public health challenges, those who experience the greatest social and economic challenges have also been hardest hit by the pandemic.
While many of these issues aren’t easily resolved by any one organization, self-scheduling does offer a route around several barriers to care. By simply offering a more flexible way to book and cancel appointments and interact with their provider, self-scheduling platforms allow patients to make plans in a way that fits their circumstances. Inconvenient business hours and long waits for available appointments become less of a concern. And with automated patient outreach, providers can make the process even easier, by sending text or email reminders to specific groups of patients to make sure they get the care they need.
Digital self-scheduling eases call center bottlenecks
Giving patients the ability to book their own appointments online also eases the burden on call center staff. Setting up staff to work remotely, while managing an influx of patients scrambling to book COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, created many pain points throughout the pandemic. First come, first serve scheduling options create bottlenecks in call volume, and when patients can’t get through to cancel appointments they can no longer attend, those slots sit unused – wasting physician time.
As patients look to reschedule deferred care, 24/7 self-scheduling can minimize these bottlenecks by relieving pressure on call center staff and spread the load across multiple channels. Call center agents can reallocate their time to higher-priority inquiries. Call times can be cut because agents will have integrated access to disparate electronic health records and project management systems. Training time can also be reduced through simplified online systems. It’s no wonder that 71% of providers offer (or plan to offer) online self-scheduling options.
Building a self-scheduling ecosystem that’s fit for the future
Digital self-scheduling systems implemented during the pandemic should become a permanent feature in patient access. Providers that want to create an attractive patient experience should expand their digital self-scheduling offering beyond simply booking appointments. Multiple specialty services can be integrated into the scheduling system to streamline referrals. Telehealth services that gained so much ground over the last 18 months can be connected to online scheduling tools so they’re fully embedded going forward. Digital payment options and coverage functions can also be linked to scheduling platforms, for a seamless end-to-end digital patient experience.
Find out how Experian Health’s 24/7 online patient scheduling software can help your organization deliver an optimal patient experience, improve call center productivity, and reduce revenue loss as the healthcare industry adapts to the new digital landscape.
Download our white paper to get patient-provider perspectives on self-scheduling and other digital trends.
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