Serious About Improving Patient Experience? Prioritise Online Appointment Booking
Appointment booking might sound like a fairly humdrum place to begin improving patient experience in your hospital or practice. However, empowering your patients to book appointments online should form should form the bedrock of your efforts. Here’s why.
1. It Suits Patients’ Busy Lives
Booking a doctor's appointment can be frustrating. In many cases, it still involves visiting the organisation in person — and queuing — or setting aside time to phone in, most of which is spent on hold listening to Mozart’s fifth symphony. As many practices aren’t open on weekends, this can mean taking time off or a mad dash to the surgery before it closes after work.
That simply doesn’t cut it anymore.
This does more than simply improve the experience your patients receive, meeting patients halfway and providing them with healthcare that fits around them can also help to make them active participants in their own wellbeing — the benefits of which for overall health are well trodden.
2. It Fits Modern Consumer Preferences
We may have mentioned this before, but it’s worth reiterating that there is a growing desire among patients for healthcare experiences that are more reflective of what they’re used to in a consumer setting.
In a world where just about everything can be purchased, requested or booked online, patients quite justifiably expect the same from their healthcare provider. This is made even more acute by the changing nature of healthcare in Australia. Whether we care to admit it or not, healthcare is increasingly driven by the market logic of the consumer sector — with providers subject to the same battle for customers’ business as retailers and the service sector.
Put simply, this means that modernising your patient experience isn’t just about improving processes: it could also be vital to your ability to attract and retain patients. Providing online appointment booking is fast becoming the baseline for the modern patient experience and providers who ignore this, potentially do so at their peril.
3. Cutting-down ‘No-shows’ is Better for Everyone
As most online appointment booking platforms include built-in SMS or email reminder tools, they have an important role to play in reducing missed appointments. There’s plenty of research available now which reveals the link between reminders and patients showing up, and this is great for healthcare providers, but it also has an important role to play in patient experience.
On a very basic level, being reminded that you have an appointment is a nice touch and averts the guilt and stress many people feel when they realise they’re supposed to be somewhere.
But, it goes beyond that: patients who’ve been reminded of their appointment are also more likely to cancel if they can’t make it rather than just not turning up. This has a knock-on effect for patient experience elsewhere: patients are more likely to be able to book appointments at short notice and waiting times are cut as practitioners don’t spend 10 mins waiting to see if their patient arrives.
4. Staff Have More Time
This sounds like an odd reason until you consider things a little more deeply. Of course, the major beneficiaries of admin staff not having to chase up no-shows are the staff themselves, but it has a ripple effect for your patients.
With the burden of chasing up no-shows removed, admin staff have more time for things like patient outreach, monitoring of patients’ care programmes, and the pastoral aspects of their role such as providing comfort and counselling. All of which contributes to an improved patient experience.
5. Increased Choice
Lastly, online appointment booking gives patients more choice, and therefore agency, over their healthcare. Many appointment booking platforms allow patients to not only choose when their appointment is and book when it suits them but also provide choices between their usual practitioner, the next available slot or even a specific doctor.
What’s more, more sophisticated offerings even give patients the ability to pick a specific department or doctor for their health complaint — for example, booking an appointment with a gastroenterologist for a stomach complaint. Again, this provides a smoother, end-to-end experience for patients as they get the care they need that much quicker, as well as improving their sense of engagement with their care.
As we've covered, online appointment booking is a surprisingly important feature of any drive towards improving your patient experience. However, it's just one potential way in which technology can help you improve the way your patients interact with your organisation. To learn more about how we can help your organisation remain competitive and keep up with changing patient expectations, visit our solutions page.
Topics Patient Experience