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Optimizing the Patient Experience with Online Appointment Scheduling

Appointment scheduling software simplifies the patient journey, making it easier for consumers to manage their own care and for providers to increase patient volumes and revenue.

In the healthcare consumer experience, reality doesn’t always meet patient expectations. Online appointment scheduling tools have been on the market for some time, for example, but providers aren’t using them to their full potential to enhance the patient experience.

Patients are craving digital resources that let them book an appointment at their own convenience, prepare for their visit, and even just remember that it’s on their calendar. But as the industry comes up against the demands of healthcare consumerism, there’s a wide gap between what patients want or need and what’s available from their providers.

The gap between expectations and reality

Most patients are looking for a way to conveniently access, coordinate, and follow up on their healthcare decisions, often from a mobile device.

Recent survey data from Salesforce found that 71 percent of healthcare consumers feel responsible for managing their health, but only 23 percent said they completely trust the healthcare industry has the technology to enable them to manage their own care.

That’s likely because healthcare organizations fall short in offering the digital solutions to meet patient needs, and patients are taking notice. The study demonstrated a strong correlation between the availability of consumer oriented online technology and the likelihood for high-trust patient-provider relationships.

According to the survey, 64 percent of respondents equated the availability of 3 or more online services to the expectation of a better experience.

Although patient expectations can vary widely based on clinical complexity, demographics, and personal preference, the healthcare industry—which is increasingly defined by consumerism—must embrace the tools other consumer sectors offer.

“Healthcare organizations should take a fresh look at their patient engagement strategies and assess how well they are doing at major healthcare intersections of patient self-scheduling, targeted patient communications, and pre-visit patient readiness,” said David Dyke, chief product officer for Relatient. “Patients are increasingly in charge of making healthcare decisions. And yet provider adoption of modern, consumer-grade engagement capabilities continues to lag other major consumer industries.”

Patient engagement technologies like patient self-scheduling can help fulfill these patient expectations. But again, there is a patient experience gap. Ninety percent of patients, including Baby Boomers, told Salesforce they want access to self-scheduling tools but only 53 percent of providers offer them—and many of those are simply online request forms that are not integrated into provider workflows.

If patients can find specific appointment availability that meet their needs, book the appointment online, and receive personalized reminders via the channel of their choice, organizations can begin to offer the patient experience most people want without fear that their practice standards for balancing patient mix will be disrupted.

Appointment scheduling supports provider challenges

Patient self-scheduling can also help solve administrative challenges on the provider side, particularly as they relate to practice or hospital finances. Organizations are operating under thin margins, especially after two years of a pandemic that kept many patients from accessing healthcare.

“These administrative functional challenges, combined with changing patient behavior, all become financial challenges for the provider organization,” Dyke said. “As a result, organizations have seen reductions in physician revenue, increasing staff costs, and increasing operating costs.”

Fundamentally, healthcare organizations can use patient self-scheduling as a means for new patient acquisition. Per the Salesforce data, 45 percent of people ages 18 to 29 don’t have a primary care provider, opening the door for organizations to engage a new patient base.

“Some providers really want to orient towards new patient acquisition,” Dyke noted. “They may prioritize filling available appointment slots. Once a patient walks through the front door, they'll capture all the necessary information. What improvements could be made by shifting information capture to pre-service?”

“An organization that wants to leverage appointment scheduling tools for new patient acquisition should also consider its approach to collecting patient information,” Dyke said.

Online patient scheduling can lead to better capture of other patient information, like insurance or contact information, which lead to improvements in the revenue cycle.

Moving beyond booking the appointment, patient engagement technology can play a role in reducing patient no-shows, a high-cost problem for many healthcare organizations. A missed appointment is a missed opportunity for revenue capture, and for organizations hamstrung by a clinician shortage it can exacerbate existing financial challenges. Provider organizations need to make the most of the staff they have, and when patients don’t show up to their appointments it creates steeper financial problems.

Appointment scheduling tools that offer calendar invites, appointment reminders, and pre-visit information can help reduce the likelihood of no-shows and support the organization bottom line.

Closing the loop on patient scheduling, access

The consumer journey doesn’t stop with online appointment scheduling.

“Ultimately, patients are showing a desire for more convenient self-scheduling of their healthcare.  Personal communication and appointment reminders are a critical, but often overlooked, component of that,” Dyke stated. “This creates significant areas of opportunity to offer simple, mobile-friendly, secure communications.”

Once patients have their appointments on the books, they’ll likely need an appointment reminder, need to know pertinent information about how to get to the clinic or office, whether they should get there early, and if any amenities will make it easier for them to physically get in the office, like transportation or valet parking. Patients also need to share relevant information about their medical history which can reduce wait time and increase overall practice capacity.

Patient messaging and appointment reminders—even something as simple as a day-of reminder—can help ease this process for patients. In turn, healthcare organizations see better patient engagement and lower no-show rates, supporting better financial health.

These reminders and engagement technologies should work hand-in-glove with online appointment scheduling options, the EHR, and the practice management system. This level of interoperability and integration assists organizations in using patient access as both a patient delighter and a source of revenue cycle improvement.

Closing the gap between what patients expect and the services providers offer will be key in an industry both driven and challenged by healthcare consumerism. Healthcare organizations should consider how appointment scheduling, and accompanying patient access tools, can support a better patient experience as well as revenue cycle.


At Relatient, we believe that the key to better health is better access. Better access lies at the intersection of scheduling and communication. Our Dash® platform combines best-in-class patient self-scheduling and centralized scheduling with modern two-way patient communication tools to provide better ace ss for patients, better utilization for providers, and better outcomes for all.

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