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Digital Patient Experience Hinges on Online Appointment Scheduling

80% of consumers said they’d use online appointment scheduling tools if available, underscoring the tech as the key part of the digital patient experience.

Healthcare providers and payers should continue to set their sights on a digital patient experience, with new data from Wakefield Research fielded on behalf of health IT company Kyruus showing that patients still want virtual care access tools.

In particular, some 80 percent of consumers want self-service online appointment scheduling, the survey of 1,000 healthcare consumers found.

The survey looked at care access experiences regarding both providers and payers, showing that patients tend to reference the digital tools available from their payers to access care from their providers. Eight in 10 consumers said they would want to schedule their healthcare from their health plan website if it was an option, and 75 percent have already done that with their last appointment.

Using online resources and scheduling tools helps patients feel better about selecting the right providers from their healthcare needs and personal preferences. According to the survey, only 36 percent of patients feel confident that they are correctly matched with a new provider when they book their appointments over the phone. For 61 percent of respondents, having access to online appointment scheduling is extremely or very important to them.

But while online self-scheduling can ease patient access, factors like poor price transparency and accurate online information and data can serve as roadblocks.

Cost is an essential factor in healthcare decision-making, 96 percent of respondents said, yet around a quarter (26 percent) said their health plan does not offer price transparency tools. For 44 percent of respondents, poor price transparency keeps them from accessing care. Another 64 percent said they need more help navigating healthcare price transparency tools.

Healthcare consumers are also keeping an eye out for the integrity of data and information shared on their health plans’ websites. Around six in 10 (58 percent) respondents said they rely on their health plan website to search for healthcare access online; for 29 percent of respondents, this is the most trusted place to find information about care access.

That means that it is essential for health plans to ensure the information on these websites is accurate. After all, patients are finding their care providers on these sites and apps, and for 77 percent of respondents, inaccurate provider information could seriously hamper patient trust in the healthcare payer. Four in 10 respondents said they’ve encountered inaccurate provider information on a health plan website.

These findings mirror reports from other organizations. In May 2023, an Experian Health report showed that patients want more from their providers’ digital front doors. Three-quarters of patients in the Experian survey said that the most important digital service their provider can offer is the ability to book appointments online or using a mobile device. Another 72 percent said they want an online payment option, and 56 percent said they want digital options for managing their care.

For their part, providers know that their digital offerings aren’t entirely meeting patient needs, and many are considering plans to grow in the future. Around half (46 percent) of providers said they think their organizations will invest more in patient engagement technologies in the next six months, and 45 percent said the digital patient experience will likely get better in the coming year.

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