More practices to offer digital self-scheduling in the near future

December 9, 2014

Soon patients will be able to interact with physicians the same way they buy clothes or music-online.

Soon patients will be able to interact with physicians the same way they buy clothes or music-online. In the next five years, 64% of patients will book doctor appointments digitally, according to a report by Accenture.

By 2019, 66% of health systems will offer self-scheduling options to patients, and 38% of doctor appointments will be self-scheduled, according to the study. Currently, only 11% of doctor appointments can be scheduled digitally, and only 2.4% of patients are using those options.

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When it comes to using digital tools to simplify the patient experience, healthcare has long lagged behind other industries, says Dipak Patel, managing director of Accenture’s patient access solutions.

“Just as consumers use online tools to book restaurant reservations or request a cab, patients want the same experience in self-booking a doctor’s appointment,” Patel said in a press release. “Evidence also shows health systems can use self-scheduling tools to boost appointment capacity, reduce costs and/or increase productivity.”

When patients can schedule their own appointments, it saves time and money for practices. It takes nearly eight minutes for a patient to make an appointment by telephone. Many of those calls (63%) are routed through third-party schedulers from office staff. According to Accenture, by 2019, 986 million appointments will be scheduled by patients digitally, and it could save $3.2 billion in healthcare costs, potentially freeing up staff for other duties that enhance patient satisfaction.

“Adopting self-scheduling delivers value by enabling call center capacity to be reallocated and schedulers to perform more complex activities,” Patel said. “By making general appointment scheduling available online, health systems can reduce excess capacity, expand scheduling hours and better allow for last minute appointments.”

Currently, only 40% of the top 100 health systems offer any type of self-scheduling, a number that could reach 100% in five years, according to the study. More than half of the remaining health systems will be able to offer digital self-scheduling to patients by 2019. Only 10% offer the service now.