Booking a table at a restaurant used to be a chore. You’d spend seemingly forever on hold only to learn there were no spots available, or that the restaurant wasn’t even open. And then you’d have to start all over at another restaurant. But today making reservations is a breeze. With a smartphone, you can find local restaurants, discover nearby options, view customer ratings, see how restaurants are adapting to the latest COVID regulations, and then make your reservation online. In other words, less dialing, more dining.
While consumers now have a lot more control over where and when they eat, it’s not the same story in healthcare. For patients, finding the care they need–that is, care from the right provider, delivered in a way the patient prefers, at a time convenient for the patient–is still a challenge. Nothing highlights the limited control patients have over their healthcare experience like appointment scheduling.
Today’s healthcare system makes scheduling a doctor’s visit an arduous task. As recently as 2017, 88% of patients made their appointments over the phone. Yet because many calls are transferred or don’t get answered promptly, only 50% of calls result in an appointment. At the same time, poor patient engagement has led to a no-show rate for appointments as high as 30%, costing healthcare providers a staggering $150 billion in lost revenue every year.
Patients are eager for a different experience. According to Accenture, a large majority — 77% — want the ability to book, change, and cancel appointments online. In fact, 60% of patients in one survey indicated that they would change providers rather than wait to book an appointment. Add to the mix the COVID pandemic, and the need for patients to be able to schedule care visits quickly and easily becomes more urgent than ever.
The vital importance of getting scheduling right creates opportunities for digital entrepreneurs and health systems. For example, the industry needs a scheduling solution that lets patients see the real-time availability of providers at specific locations. This ideal platform would allow patients to book appointments directly online, and cancel or change them as required. It would also empower patients to choose the kind of care they receive, including in-person visits or care delivered via telehealth; virtual care modalities, such as voice, video, or chat; care from an RN or an MD; appointments focused on treatment vs. diagnosis; and brief or in-depth appointments.
Having a platform in place would also help providers remind patients about upcoming appointments, which can make a significant impact on the no-show rate. For example, one study found that automated email and text reminders lowered the number of missed appointments by 50%. Beyond appointment reminders, the platform can help direct patients to the appropriate type of care and play a key role in keeping patients engaged — even between episodes of care — with regular check-ins and updates. And it can help balance care team availability and demand — creating efficiencies and lowering cost-of-care.
Providence’s Digital Innovation Group has first-hand knowledge of how technology can transform healthcare scheduling. In 2019, the group launched Providence Healthcare Connect and Swedish Healthcare Connect, Alexa skills that allow users of Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices to set up healthcare visits and manage appointments. And it has developed and is currently spinning out DexCare — a platform that orchestrates capacity and digital demand across lines of care–offering new models for consumer access, navigation and optimization.
Digital scheduling is yet another area where innovative entrepreneurs and health systems can shape the future of healthcare. You can read about the Digital Innovation Group’s latest thinking on scheduling and other technology-driven healthcare trends in a new, free report — “Distributed Care and Digital Health Acceleration,” part of the group’s COVID-19 Digital Insight Series. The complete series of reports — all available for download at no charge — is available on the group’s Resources page.
This article originally appeared as sponsored content on Geekwire under the headline “What Do Online Reservation Platforms Have To Do With Healthcare?”