By Mike Lamb
I recently attended the 2023 Patient & Consumer Innovation Summit, hosted by KLAS Research. The hot topic this year was how patient self-scheduling has gone from a nice-to-have to a deal-breaker for prospective and existing patients. Today, patients wield greater influence and possess increasing options when it comes to their healthcare decisions. Patient self-scheduling is not just a trend; it's a fundamental shift in how healthcare services are accessed.
In fact, patients are angry.
In an era where patient empowerment and convenience are at the forefront of healthcare trends, patients no longer want to take time out of their workday to call practices, wait on hold or go online just to ‘request’ an appointment. For years, patients have enjoyed convenient access to consumer on-demand services right at their fingertips - from booking flights, rides and ordering meals. However, healthcare practices have hesitated to embrace this trend, fearing that patients would not adopt or appreciate it. Yet, patients are now voicing their dissatisfaction as KLAS shared...
“We are trying to push our online scheduling presence a lot more. We have had it to some extent for years, but we are trying to go the extra mile. We are doing a lot more with online scheduling because that is what patients want. We are going to try to go from making it available to making it a lot like booking a flight.” - Chief Medical Information Officer
At Clearwave, we've been at the forefront of this shift, helping practices transform online booking into an airline-like approach so patients can “fly” through scheduling. Our experience has allowed us to perfect scheduling, mastering best practices for success.
Yet, while patient demand for self-scheduling is high, healthcare practices have been quick to put off the transition. The hesitancy often lies on the provider’s shoulders.
Provider Concerns for Patient Self-Scheduling
Why are providers hesitant to give patients the option to self-schedule their appointments?
At the KLAS Research summit, we discussed the common barriers to implementing self-scheduling. The resounding concern from providers and practice leaders was; an online tool isn’t robust enough to meet our scheduling needs.
That is a valid concern we hear from healthcare practices. It is a common misconception that there is no solution powerful enough. Specifically, we hear the following from providers:
The common misconceptions shared by providers above are logical concerns. It seems, both patients and providers want ownership over scheduling. How can you meet in the middle?
Our extensive experience has allowed us to successfully assist numerous practices in overcoming these challenges. Most of these concerns align with the common misconceptions that practices have around patient self-scheduling. Patient self-scheduling can be a game-changer for healthcare practices, but it's essential to debunk common myths that might be holding your practice back.
5 Patient Self-Scheduling Myths — Busted
Let's unravel these misconceptions and pinpoint how practices are busting them to meet both provider and patient expectations.
Staff schedulers will follow my unique requirements better that a digital tool.
One prevalent myth surrounding patient self-scheduling is the belief that human schedulers, familiar with the intricacies of a practice, can better adhere to unique scheduling requirements. The assumption here is that automated systems lack the ability to understand and navigate the nuanced scheduling needs of each practice. Our experience has shown that manual intervention does not ensure accuracy.
Consider, how many errors your schedule has incurred this year, despite having a manual approach?
Today’s challenging healthcare staffing shortages and churn have likely contributed to the scheduling challenges facing practices. Patient self-scheduling software not only enhances efficiency but also minimizes the risk of human error. The key advantage lies in the digital scheduling software’s ability to adhere strictly to pre-built workflow requirements, eliminating the possibility of inaccuracies in patient bookings.
One director of operations we worked with shared why digital is more reliable than traditional methods, “When patients book online, we know it will be accurate, which isn’t something you can always guarantee in an over-the-phone interaction. The online scheduler has been huge in helping book patients in the way that meets provider requirements, and now it is really on autopilot for us. It has been so seamless and a great convenience for our patients and relief for our staff.”
Patients will be more likely to pick the wrong appointment type, location, etc.
There is a fear among providers that patients, when given the autonomy to self-schedule, may make errors in selecting the appropriate appointment type, location or other critical details. Contrary to this belief, modern self-scheduling solutions incorporate intuitive interfaces and guidance features, minimizing the chances of such mistakes. Additionally, built-in logic can prompt patients with relevant questions, ensuring they make informed choices and reducing the likelihood of scheduling errors.
Of the impact online scheduling has had on booking accuracy, that same director of operations shares promising results, “I have not gotten any complaints from physicians. The online scheduler has been huge in helping book patients in the way that meets provider requirements. It’s the time we’re living in. Everything is advancing, and I truly believe more and more patients will use this feature.”
Online bookings have higher no-show rates.
Another commonly held misconception is that allowing patients to book appointments online leads to higher no-show rates. The concern is that patients may be more likely to forget or disregard appointments scheduled through digital platforms. However, studies have shown that patient reminders, transportation options and their level of sickness are all higher contributing factors to patient no-shows, rather than how they booked the appointment initially. Advanced patient communications and reminder systems integrated into your platforms help keep patients informed about their upcoming appointments, ultimately improving adherence to the schedule.
No last-minute or urgent slots will be available.
Healthcare providers contemplating self-scheduling also fear that urgent or last-minute slots will be unavailable, disrupting the balance of their schedules. Depending on the specialty, it’s not uncommon for providers to purposefully leave openings in their schedules.
Smart self-scheduling workflows and solutions take this concern into account. By understanding the unique needs of different specialties, smart self-scheduling software allows practices to strategically open specific slots for last-minute or urgent appointments. This flexibility not only meets the demands of patients seeking immediate care but also ensures providers can adapt their schedules to include patient urgency.
For example, we’ve worked with Pediatrics and Foot/Ankle specialists who are both prone to incur more patients who book appointments at the last minute. For this reason, we help these practices tailor their self-scheduling workflows to automatically pinpoint and leave certain appointment bookings open in their schedules.
Patients will get booked despite our unique booking policies.
Every practice has unique policies around booking patients — from self-pay or Medicare/Medicaid policies, policies around patients with outstanding balances and so on. Smart logic built into a pre-determined scheduling workflow can help your practice direct certain patients to book over the phone or sign consent forms upon booking. These added steps help to meet financial and booking requirements without any hiccups.
For example, we worked with one orthopedic practice, helping them tailor their digital scheduling workflow to meet specific patient insurance rules. Their Director of Operations shared their current approach in a recent webinar conversation on self-scheduling, saying, “We were able to add a pop-up consent in our scheduling workflows. Now, when someone indicates that they’re uninsured, we can have patients review and acknowledge our financial policies via the online scheduler.”
How to Meet Patient & Provider Requirements
In dispelling these myths, practices can embrace patient self-scheduling with confidence. It’s possible to give patients and providers the control they require over scheduling healthcare appointments.
In our expertise, having the upmost ability to tailor and customize your scheduling workflow is key to not just meeting practice requirements but also to improving efficiency, accuracy and ultimately, patient satisfaction. See what else you need in a scheduling platform to meet self-service patient demand.