Pros and Cons of Patients Scheduling Appointments Online

By Molly Maloof  |  December 2, 2015

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Many patients are turning to the web to schedule doctor appointments. This trend is becoming more common as we continue to move forward. Its pervasive reach requires our understanding on why patients are scheduling with online booking systems and how doctors can utilize these to create a more efficient practice.

Status Quo
Right now most patients may be looking up and calling primary care doctors and specialists based on their health plan’s directory, and sometimes this doesn’t yield the desired results. It is also time consuming to play phone tag and attempt to work schedules back and forth over the phone, meaning it can be easier for patients to feel frustration when using this method.

Online Appointment Scheduling
Fortunately, there are online scheduling sites where patients can see doctor’s calendars and find the ones that accept their insurance. These scheduling websites have grown a huge demand throughout the patient community. We use online booking agents for travel, and now we are beginning to see them gain popularity within healthcare. So what are the pros and cons of online appointment scheduling?

Cons:
There are still reservations as patients gain more control over a medical practice’s scheduling system. There is reluctance to allow patients to have full viewing inside of a doctor’s schedule. In addition, some patients may not be equipped enough to make their own appointments with the right amount of detail. Naturally, some doctors are not ready to give patients such control. 

Some concerns doctors are facing with the new automated scheduling systems are the following:

  • Patients won’t understand certain nuances in a doctor’s scheduling system, such as not having an appointment booked after a long string of meetings.
  • Patient’s may not have the kind of medical information to understand how and when they should be scheduled for an appointment, depending on certain questions that medical practices will ask of their health. Is a patient having a problem that requires a routine checkup or are they experiencing something emergent?
  • Clearly there are some nervous responses to be had when considering patient information safety during online interactions. This is a common concern with the handling of any information over the web, whether it be credit card info, identity theft, or HIPPA concerns when doctors communicate with patients online.

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Pros:
Even though there are concerns, it is still important to consider how efficient it can make your practice along with the many other benefits these scheduling systems implement.

  • Online scheduling has allowed practices to save money and the time of certain secretarial positions. No-shows become less common as these automated systems will send up to three reminders to the patients before the appointment.
  • No-shows become less common as these automated systems will send up to three reminders to the patients before the appointment.
  • With proper online security and encryption when using web-based schedule platforms, and the patient and doctor can stay HIPAA secure.
  • When patients receive multiple online reminders from the automated system, there are fewer no-shows.
  • With greater convenience, patient staff satisfaction goes up!

Understanding and utilizing online booking mechanisms is a part cultivating an optimized clinical presence. Patients use these to have control and autonomy with their own schedules, while also saving time and understanding their health on a more personal level. Research the different options and decide which kind of e-booking platform would work best for your clinic.

It is important to be mindful of concerns that follow with having an automated scheduling system, but part of allowing these online systems to grow and evolve in a healthy manner requires the input of doctors and clinics. Over time, the refining of this software will help promote the efficiency of practices and their usefulness in today’s healthcare system.

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