Most patients today have become accustomed to researching, evaluating, and making purchasing decisions online; most frequently – from their smartphones. Among the things we take for granted, online scheduling is an increasingly important trend, with 35% of consumers claiming this option is an essential factor in their purchasing decisions.
Patients looking for quick, convenient, and simple access to services are annoyed by delays and inconveniences and don’t want to be seen as a simple extension of their condition. The healthcare industry, however, is slow to keep up with consumers’ expectations, and often, many healthcare institutions lack the online booking solutions present in other industries.
In this article, we will talk about why that’s a problem, and how online appointment software can be used as a practical solution. Then, we’ll look at some of the best online appointment software tools on the market and their benefits for both patients and virtual care providers.
Why Online Appointment Booking?
The healthcare industry has been slow to adapt to the needs and desires of today’s increasingly connected patients. Often, the industry’s inability to keep pace with changes in consumer behavior is put down to a few core elements:
- Privacy concerns – for example, concerns about confidentiality in video therapy such as document storage, file-sharing, and data security
- A general lack of transparency regarding healthcare information, and
- Slow institutional adoption of blended care solutions – often, due to misunderstandings around ROI or inefficient implementation of such mHealth technologies in healthcare organizations.
Online Booking: The Rising Demand for Convenience
According to one study, around 80% of patients prefer working with a health professional who offers online booking, regardless of whether that’s a general practitioner or specialized provider, such as a mental health therapist.  85% of patients, however, are still booking doctor’s appointments by phone – not because they want to, but because their providers lack online scheduling options.
85% of patients, however, are still booking doctor’s appointments by phone – not because they want to, but because their providers lack online scheduling options.
Online appointment software can give providers a competitive advantage, especially since studies show that 60% of appointments are now booked outside office hours.
In fact, this factor is so important nowadays, that according to the above-mentioned study, patients are willing to see a healthcare provider who is further away from them, but have online booking tools available.
They also prefer to see a physician who has less availability – but offers online appointment options – than one who is available but must be booked by phone.
For clarity – appointments made by phone are not obsolete, with many patients still preferring human interaction over smartphone apps. But, more and more data shows that the trend is moving toward the digitization of booking services. Practitioners should aim toward having both a call center and online appointment software as studies show that those that provide both options tend to see a 24% increase in calls when online booking is available.
Millennials: Driving The Rise of Blended Care
Whether you like it or not, Millennials are now dictating the rules of good customer service. And when Millennials talk, businesses listen – especially considering that they are now the largest generation in America.
As digital natives, much research shows that Millennials are more comfortable accessing healthcare recommendations, services, and payment options online, and that these services include the capability to schedule medical appointments digitally.
In fact, 71% of them say that they dislike the traditional methods the healthcare industry is stuck in and prefer using online booking apps that also provide reminders of their appointments rather than do it by phone. Moreover, scheduling an appointment via telephone takes around eight minutes, versus one minute when using online appointment software – often, a dealbreaker for Millennials.
The numbers speak loud and clear: healthcare providers who fail to keep up and adapt will lose patients.
According to another recent report from Accenture, 64% of patients were expected to book appointments online in 2019 with 62% of the U.S. health system offering this service. The value of online scheduling was to reach a staggering $3.2 billion, study shows.
The numbers speak loud and clear: healthcare providers who fail to keep up and adapt will lose patients.
Benefits of Online Appointment Software
The advantages of online booking for patients are obvious. In a nutshell, studies mention:
- Less hassle
- Less time spent trying to get in touch with a receptionist, and
- Greater convenience, to name a few.
But, what about the benefits of online appointment software for practitioners, both conventional and in an e-therapy context? How can they benefit from implementing this service?
Let us count the ways.
Unfulfilled Appointments = Lost Revenue
Unfulfilled appointments cost the U.S. healthcare system over $150 billion yearly. The problems are even more prominent in the mental health industry. Studies show that psychiatric patients are twice as likely to be readmitted if they fail to follow up and miss their appointments.
For some perspective: the American Journal of Medicine reports that one patient, on average, generates between $100 and $150 per visit. If two out of ten appointments are unfilled each day, this equates to a total of $200 in lost revenue. With average no-show rates at around 24%, the healthcare industry is rather unpredictable, to say the least.
Let’s continue our calculation by adding into the equation the cost of human resources. If you only do appointments by phone, and you receive 50 calls each day, and each call takes on average eight minutes, then that is a full-time position just for appointments. All time that might be spent better on other responsibilities, such as improving customer service or client engagement.
Fast Return on Investment
The cost of acquiring, implementing, and maintaining online appointment software is often the reason practitioners tend to be wary about these services.
And the truth is that professional, well-designed, and HIPAA-compliant software can cost up to $50 per month.
But, think about it this way: if implementing this service has brought you just one new patient, the software has already paid for itself. And, as we’ve seen, most patients would prefer a practitioner that offers online booking services even if he is further away or less available.
Freedom to Make Appointments Outside Business Hours
Scheduling an appointment by phone isn’t always straightforward. You may have to go back and forth, trying to find a time and date that works for everyone. Or you may end up playing phone tag if none of you are available at the right time. It can be slow and frustrating for both parties.
With online appointment software, on the other hand, prospects can book sessions whenever they have a few minutes to spare. They can go online before going to bed or on their commute to work or during lunch break and make an appointment with a few clicks. If they can’t make it due to an inconvenience in their schedule, then they can cancel online and reschedule.
Not only that online appointment software is convenient for patients, but it can also help practitioners save time. A lot of healthcare professionals find themselves sending emails or making phone calls back and forth, trying to find a time slot that works for both of you, confirming appointments or rescheduling them. It can be time-consuming and tiring, to say the least.
With online appointment software, patients are not only able to see your availability online, but practitioners can also avoid overbooking, which can translate into unhappy patients and lost revenue.
From BIRP notes to general patient management and intake therapy forms, documentation is an essential and necessary component of the healthcare industry. It’s also highly tedious and time-consuming.
Online appointment software can automate and simplify admin processes by allowing practitioners to keep track of all the necessary information with just one app. One system can give you access to patient details, their medical history, notes, receipts, and more – boosting your efficiency and enhancing practice management in one fell swoop.
Competitive Strategic Advantage
If the numbers are repeatedly underscoring any one point, it’s that patients are becoming more annoyed with the inconveniences of making an appointment by phone. Whether it’s because they lack the time, have had a bad experience with a customer rep, or simply dislike talking on the phone, the truth of the matter is that close to 55% of consumers are annoyed by the process of telephone bookings.
By enabling patients to book services online, practitioners differentiate themselves from competitors. Not only that; but the chances of a patient going elsewhere are significantly reduced when scheduling becomes a breeze.
3 Best Online Appointment Software Providers
If you are serious about giving your patients the best care and you understand that the medical act isn’t the only factor that matters, but the entire service from beginning to end, then you are probably wondering what the best online appointment software is.
Here, we’ve reviewed some services that we think will help you boost your practice and make patients happy.
|If you are only interested in a HIPAA-compliant tool that does just one thing and does it extremely well, then Yellow Schedule is the right service for you. It is an easy and practical solution that can help you streamline online appointments.|
This app allows you to set different time slots and login details for each medical professional your practice has. That makes managing appointments easier on both sides. It also allows you to send branded customs emails and reminders, thus improving customer relationship and retention. You can also sync this app with your Google Calendar, Yahoo, and so on so that all the details of your appointment are in one place.
|Price||Up to $99 monthly|
|Good For||Appointment Scheduling, Telehealth, Teletherapy|
|Simple Practice is more than just a HIPAA-compliant online appointment software. It’s also a patient management tool that can make the life of any practitioner easier than ever before.|
With this app, you can take notes during therapy and review them whenever and wherever you want. You can also store documents securely, such as patients’ contact details, intake forms, images, and so on. Another feature that makes Simple Practice simply great is that it allows credit card processing, meaning that you can securely store credit card information details from your paying patients.
|Price||$39 to $49 monthly|
|Good For||Telehealth, Teletherapy, Billing, Appointment Scheduling, Reminders, and Notifications|
|BirchPress is just as great as other tools out there. It allows you to create appointments for multiple staff members and locations using mobile devices. Moreover, patients can make an appointment directly on your website without having to go to another page, which makes the entire process smooth and easy. You can also send custom emails and SMS reminders and message clients to keep in touch with them and nurture your relationship.|
However, there is one major downside to this app: it’s not HIPAA-compliant, which means that patients’ data might be at risk in the case of a virtual hack.
|Price||One-time payment up to $200|
|Good For||Notifications, Business Coaching, Scheduling, Staff Communications|
Although more blended care practitioners are recognizing the importance of integrating digital tools like online appointment software into their service models, the healthcare industry has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to innovative customer service. Patients nowadays are switching from traditional methods to the digital channels of communication and are expecting medical professionals to do the same.
They want easy and timely access to medical services, and as such, therapists should focus on adapting their services to meet modern patients’ online communication needs and preferences. It’s precisely where appointment software can make a difference, giving you a competitive advantage in an industry that is still slow at adapting to new technologies and enhancing outdated processes.
Growing your practice should include not only perfecting the medical act but the customer service too – which can’t be done without taking advantage of the available software. The preference for online appointment solutions and ease of use are here to stay and your patients are expecting you to streamline their efforts. In the end, using appointment software benefits both parties: patients get the convenience they crave, while practitioners can increase revenue, save time, and boost their efficiency.
What’s left is finding a solution that best fits your practice and patients.
- ^ Kyruus (2017). 2017 Patient Access Journey Report. Retrieved from https://www.kyruus.com/patient-access-journey-report
- ^ Simpson, S. (2009). Psychotherapy via videoconferencing: A review. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 37(3), 271.
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- ^ Ghafur, S., & Schneider, E. C. (2019). Why Are Health Care Organizations Slow To Adopt Patient-Facing Digital Technologies?. Retrieved from https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20190301.476734/full/
- ^ Searing, L. (2019). The Big Number: Millennials to overtake boomers in 2019 as largest U.S. population group. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/the-big-number-millennials-to-overtake-boomers-in-2019-as-largest-us-population-group/2019/01/25/a566e636-1f4f-11e9-8e21-59a09ff1e2a1_story.html
- ^ Mikles, S. P., & Mielenz, T. J. (2015). Characteristics of electronic patientprovider messaging system utilisation in an urban health care organisation. BMJ Health & Care Informatics, 22(1), 214.
- ^ Francis, J. (2014). Two-in-Three Patients will Book Medical Appointments Online in Five Years, Accenture Forecasts. Retrieved from https://newsroom.accenture.com/industries/health-public-service/two-in-three-patients-will-book-medical-appointments-online-in-five-years-accenture-predicts.htm
- ^ Gier, J. (2017). Missed appointments cost the U.S. healthcare system $150B each year. Retrieved from https://www.scisolutions.com/uploads/news/Missed-Appts-Cost-HMT-Article-042617.pdf
- ^ Boonstra, A., Versluis, A., & Vos, J. F. (2014). Implementing electronic health records in hospitals: a systematic literature review. BMC Health Services Research, 14(1), 370.