Patient access and engagement insights from two million appointments

According to a recent research effort by Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, Inc., a healthcare strategic communications and engagement firm, 85 percent of respondents said patient experience is a top three priority for their health system.

Health systems are investing in different initiatives to improve the overall patient experience which mostly begins with creating ease of access and improving patient engagement. As a leader in online appointment scheduling and engagement, DocASAP, recently passed two million appointments booked through its solution. The insights gleaned were interesting because they battle the myths and predict the best practices in maximizing efficiency with patient access and engagement.

Online appointment scheduling attracts more patients beyond the traditional method of scheduling of filling out an online request form or calling during office hours. The ability to schedule any type of appointment online, not just within healthcare, is in a rapid growth state. According to our data, 54 percent of appointments booked online are from new patients. Patients want convenience and timeliness when they have to schedule their next care visit. Despite how true this is, the healthcare industry is still slow to adopt online appointment scheduling as a “need to have” -- it is seen as more of a “nice to have” that is in the far future. According to an Accenture study on digital self-scheduling, by 2019, 64 percent of patients will utilize self-scheduling to book appointments. This will result in 38 percent or 986 million of all appointments to be digitally self-scheduled, creating $3.2 billion in value.

Active engagement helps clients who tend to have a high no show rate by sending patients actionable appointment reminders and notifications. Through active patient engagement from the time the appointment is booked until the actual appointment time, patients are more likely to show up or modify upcoming appointments via text or email. Our data supports that no show rates have decreased by 17 percent because of this active engagement with the patient. If patients have the ability to easily cancel or reschedule prior to the appointment time, near term availability becomes available for patients seeking last minute appointments such as urgent care.

Patients want near-term availability for appointments. Typically, when booking specialty appointments, patients get frustrated when the next available appointment is at least three weeks out which is very common. According to our analytics, when availability is many days out, patients will abandon the booking process and seek care with providers that have sooner availability. Additionally, 73 percent of patients are likely to book an appointment when there is availability within two days. When there is not availability for more than two weeks, 47 percent of patients are likely to book an appointment which results in a 55 percent decrease from when there was availability within two days. Furthermore, based on our data for when appointments are actually booked, 40 percent of appointments are booked within two days of the appointment.

Patients want the ability to book an appointment utilizing a convenient method during a time that fits their schedule, not solely during the provider’s office operational business hours. The adoption and use of mobile technologies has allowed consumers to conveniently and quickly complete most actions from their mobile phones. Today, anyone can make a dinner reservation or schedule a haircut appointment through a mobile app. By enabling apps that can be actively used for healthcare purposes, mobile usage is continuing to rise. Our data shows that 69 percent of appointments are booked from a mobile device. Additionally, 43 percent of appointments are booked after hours since online appointment scheduling is available 24/7.

The theory that older generations are resistant to technology is a myth, particularly when it comes to utilizing it for convenient and timely access to healthcare. As technology continues to rapidly evolve and smart phones are ever present, older generations are adapting to the utilization of mobile technologies for convenience and efficiency of managing daily tasks. According to our data, 39 percent of online bookings are from patients over the age of 40. Older generations are entrusting this technology to not only book appointments for themselves but also for their children or other family members.

Puneet Maheshwari, Chief Executive Officer, DocASAP

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