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  • Writer's pictureMichael Slusarz

Ease and Access. Patient Scheduling Experience Needs a Refresh.

It should come as no surprise that today’s patients are demanding convenient and flexible online self-service options. Having an accessible and responsive patient experience when scheduling an appointment to see a doctor is a must have, as our latest mystery shopper survey concluded. The financial implications of getting it right for any practice are profound.

We recently completed a mystery shopper survey evaluating the challenges new patients encounter when attempting to schedule a general wellness visit, reaching out to over 50 primary care providers. The goal was to measure access to, the timeliness of and ease of scheduling a new patient appointment using both online and phone access points. What we found is that many practices are still using legacy scheduling tools and otherwise making it difficult for new patients to get an appointment. This not only creates significant pain points for potential patients, but also negatively impacts the patient experience and your practice’s bottomline.

For many practices, there is an opportunity to utilize new technology solutions and improve staff training to enhance the patient experience and eliminate these pain points.

Good News and Bad News on the Customer Experience for New Patients:

· Overall, close to 85% of the providers were able to schedule a new patient appointment, with over 90% of those appointments being scheduled within 3-5 days.

· However, most practices offered only phone access scheduling (70%) and only (30%) encouraged online appointment scheduling.

Phone Scheduling Pain Points and What Success Looks Like:

· For practices where appointment scheduling was only available via phone, most calls went immediately to a voice message with several confusing prompts (70%)

· On average, the hold time for incoming calls exceeded 4 minutes and prospective patients could not opt to leave a message in some instances. When a message was left, the callback usually occurred within two hours.

· Of the practices answering the call immediately (30%), the experience was engaging, authentic, trusting and consumer centric. This leads to more new appointments and a better customer experience for your practice.

Online scheduling pain points:

· While a third of the practices offered online scheduling, the customer experience had mixed results, to say the least.

· Most practices that offered that option used a general form fill (80%) and an automated email response back indicating someone would reach out by phone. Most times, this follow-up did not occur within 48 hours of submitting the form if at all.

· The balance of the practices utilizing an online scheduling option used patient-centric solutions aligned with the practices EMR or a third-party program with the ability for the patient to schedule an appointment in real time (20%).

Your Goal Moving Forward: Place the Patient in the Center of the Scheduling Process

Several easy conclusions can be drawn from the study. But the critical question is how much initial business is lost, because the caller gives up and more importantly what’s the impact to the lifetime financial value of those patient experiences, to the practices bottom line.

Placing the patient front and center is crucial to your practice’s financial success.

From the survey results, it appears the primary challenge impacting new patient volume and long-term revenue is the scheduling process, not the availability of a timely appointment.

Clear weaknesses were discovered for both phone and on-line appointment scheduling, including long hold times, lack of callbacks, and confusing communication. The real opportunity is to provide a true self-service, real-time online scheduling option!

How Much is an Investment in Connection Worth?

So, let’s define the low hanging fruit to improve the patient experience, driving new patient volume, enhancing the brand, capturing profitable business and eliminating lost revenue.

From a digital perspective, a more efficient, real-time, automated online scheduling system is a must, gone are the days when you can rely on form fills and callbacks.

Flexible, highly automated scheduling options can both play a role in helping patients prioritize their health, even in the midst of their busy schedules because it’s easy to schedule an appointment and generate solid business results. Updated integrations within your electronic health records system, a better operational system or third-party platforms are required for success.

And let’s not forget the level of service and the importance of phone access even in today’s expanding digital ecosystem. Many patients expect to speak with someone at the practice to build trust and confidence. Invest in proven training modules, with experienced trainers, develop core scripting, hardwire callbacks with automated solutions and monitor performance with some basic KPI’s.

Some basic suggestions, are you willing to make the commitment?

Contact us today to learn more or call us at (973) 809-9963.

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