Need an Appointment? There’s a App for That. The App Will Schedule You Now
In our last post, we talked about a variety of current and near-future methods patients can use to schedule their appointments, including phone, text, chat, online requests, and online booking.
With technology, convenience always wins, so online booking tools will likely be the way most patients eventually schedule appointments. Just as folks use sites like Expedia and Booking.com to reserve hotel rooms, patients will be able to see available appointment slots, select the best time for their schedule, and immediately receive a confirmation.
Indeed, this type of system ties into another healthcare trend, which is the ability to search for a physician, read reviews for several, select one, and book an appointment—all online. For many, healthcare has moved away from a closed system where choices are limited to a certain network and specialist visits require a referral from a primary care physician. Increasingly (especially among Millennials), patients do not have a primary care physician and seek whatever care they need through an online search.
In some cities, residents can use a smartphone app to summon a physician to their home, what the New York Times refers to as “An Uber for Doctor Housecalls.” According to the Times, a physician will arrive 20 to 60 minutes after requesting an appointment and entering a credit card number into the Heal.com app and see a patient for $99. Heal is currently in six cities with plans to expand.
The question, then, is how practices will move to online booking technology and how they’ll incorporate it into their existing scheduling system. For many, the answer will likely be a third-party service such as ZocDoc or DocASAP. Both allow patients to download an app that lets them search for a physician in their area that takes their insurance, read reviews about the providers, and book an appointment. Practices can sign on to these services to be listed in appropriate searches.
Just as hotels can be listed on several booking sites, online schedulers tie into a practice’s scheduling software, automatically displaying available times to potential patients and blocking off those slots on your calendar as they fill. Each provider has control over their calendar and can decide when patients can and cannot book.
Some scheduling systems allow patients to fill out forms online prior to appointments and send automatic appointment confirmations/reminders. This feature not only reduces patient no-shows, it also frees up front-desk personnel for more important tasks, such as eligibility verification.
Sources:

  1. “An Uber for Doctor Housecalls, May 5, 2015, The New York Times, https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05/05/an-uber-for-doctor-housecalls/?_r=1

Last Updated on July 14, 2017