As patients spend more time online, modern practices recognize the importance of offering patient self-scheduling as a way to make appointments. Gone are the days of calling a practice during regular business hours. Most patients are working their own 9 to 5 and would prefer their coworkers not hear the private details about their healthcare condition.  And there is nothing worse than finding 5 minutes during a lunch break to call the doctor, only to find that their office is closed for lunch.

Consumers today use online scheduling tools to book flights, make dinner reservations, and request service appointments for their cars. So why not offer patients the option to schedule their healthcare appointments online? Although healthcare has been slow to follow suit, Accenture predicts that by the end of 2019, 66 percent of health systems in the U.S. will offer patient self-scheduling. The same study also predicts that all of the top 100 U.S. health systems will offer patient self-scheduling by the end of 2019.

Patient self-scheduling allows patients to conveniently schedule an appointment on their own time, whenever and wherever. And, patients aren’t the only ones who reap the benefits. Healthcare practices observe reduced no-shows and improved capacity after implementing patient self-scheduling as it frees up time for their staff to focus on patient care.

To stay competitive in today’s healthcare marketplace, healthcare practices need to leverage technology to stand out above the competition. Read on to learn why patient self-scheduling is a non-negotiable for modern healthcare practices.

Patient Self-scheduling Increases Productivity

Your medical staff is already stretched thin and growing demands are challenging you to do more with less staff and resources. From collecting outstanding patient balances to tracking and reporting on quality initiatives, both your administrative and clinical staff have full plates. Those plates only get fuller when staff has to juggle phone lines. And, when patients call the doctor’s office to make an appointment, each call lasts an average of 8 minutes. That can add up to a significant amount of time that could be used for other responsibilities.

However, patient self-scheduling enables patients to book appointments for a fraction of that time, requiring only one minute. By allowing patients to view availability on a calendar during their own time, your front office staff is able to focus on other revenue-driving activities rather than manning the phones for scheduling appointments. In fact, Future Healthcare Today suggests that patient self-scheduling can free up one full-time equivalent (FTE) for every 100 appointments that would have been scheduled via phone.

Patient Self-scheduling Improves the Patient Experience

The demand for patient self-scheduling is rising, especially as 83 percent of consumers are familiar with online scheduling, according to Healthgrades. And, 80% of patients say they prefer a doctor who offers patient self-scheduling. Given the number of options patients have when it comes to choosing their care provider and location, offering patient self-scheduling can be a deal-breaker for patients looking for a new doctor.

Patient self-scheduling can help improve the patient experience since it takes less time and is more convenient than traditional phone scheduling. Given the fact that phone call scheduling takes an average of 8 minutes, patients can easily get frustrated with being put on hold or transferred multiple times while trying to make an appointment. In contrast,  24/7 online access to their doctor’s schedule offers peace of mind and a more seamless experience for patients. And when patients are satisfied, they’re more likely to share their positive experience online, which can draw in new patients.

Patient Self-scheduling Maximizes Your Schedule

Typically, doctor’s offices operate between 8:00 am to 5:00 pm or some variation of a regular business schedule. This makes it difficult for patients who work during the same hours with limited phone access to schedule appointments. Patient self-scheduling allows patients to schedule appointments 24/7—not just during your business hours. This increase in scheduling hours also allows for patients to schedule last minute appointments so you can fill your schedule.

By making your schedules available online, last-minute cancellations can also more easily be filled by patients wanting to get in quick. Since 90 percent of doctor’s offices aren’t using a waitlist, typically only 15 percent of canceled appointments get filled. In contrast, patient self-scheduling could provide an opportunity to notify patients who request alerts for earlier appointments using an automated software that sends patient appointment reminders and notifications via text.

Patient Self-scheduling Can Save You Money

Interestingly, patients are more likely to attend scheduled appointments that were booked online, according to the Journal of Medical Internet Research. While the reason for this is unclear, it’s possible that it’s because patient self-scheduling allows patients to easily cancel or reschedule appointments, when necessary. In other words, patient engagement is higher since the patient is taking control over scheduling their own appointment. Fewer no-shows has financial implications for your practice, saving you from lost revenue.

In addition, the improved productivity and efficiency generated by patient self-scheduling can save you money. In fact, Accenture predicts that patient self-scheduling will allow healthcare organizations to reallocate $3.2 billion in scheduler capacity in 2019 alone.

While patient self-scheduling may seem like you’re releasing control over your schedule, you actually have a greater ability to define appointment types to ensure your schedule isn’t overbooked. Automation can do this without having to monopolize precious staff time that could be spent on other responsibilities. As a result, your healthcare practice can benefit from cost savings, better scheduling capacity, and improved productivity while enhancing the experience for your patients.

Want to learn about more ways to attract patients in a digital world? Read our blog post 4 Ways to Attract New Patients in a Digital World.

To see how Providertech helps healthcare providers and payers use patient self-scheduling to stand out in a competitive market, schedule a demo with our experts today.