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Patients Want Online Appointment Scheduling, but Few Medical Providers Claim this Marketing Differentiation

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer
Hand writing with a pen next to stethoscope

Analog or Digital?

Providing patients with online appointment scheduling appears to be growing in some healthcare sectors, but it’s not an option for most patients. People want it. They use online scheduling in other areas of their daily living. There are business advantages for the provider.

BUT—online appointments are a convenience that not many providers offer to patients. So…the healthcare marketing opportunity here is: If you’ve got it, differentiate with it.

Allowing patients access to an office or department schedule was largely unheard of just a few years ago; a completely foreign notion to patients. And the concept was—and for many still is—a HIPAA-compliance nightmare for practice administrators.

These fears and slow-to-adopt attitudes are still around, even though the technology has been widely embraced and used by the public. Patients routinely schedule appointment times to their convenience for a lab procedure, dental prophy, medispa treatments as well as non-medical self-bookings for theater tickets, parent-teacher meetings, tax preparation services, restaurant reservations and dozens of other service situations.

The business benefits are appealing. In addition to the benefits for patients (24/7 convenience, multiple phone calls, waiting on hold, etc.), the provider is more likely to connect with a new patient in need, plus reduce overhead and enhance the patient experience (email confirmations, fewer no-shows, fewer call-backs, for example.)

What’s the big picture? Expect the demand to grow as additional patients gain health coverage in 2014, and the boomer group ages with more need for health care. About half of family practices use electronic health records, and nearly half (44 percent) use e-prescribing, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

But online scheduling still lags— the Academy says that only about 16 percent of family doctors used online scheduling in 2009, which is up from 6 percent over the prior four years. That’s a slow-growth pace, but it’s likely to pick up steam as electronic health records and the adoption curve accelerate.

We’d like to hear from you on this. Where are you on the adoption curve, and are you using online scheduling to differentiate your practice, hospital or healthcare organization? How’s that going? If you’d like to chat with us about this or other ways to differentiate your healthcare marketing, reach out to us today.

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