Today’s consumers have a host of healthcare-related decisions to make, from where to look for information about providers and services, to deciding who is the best match for their specific needs, to scheduling an appointment in a timely manner. They’ve come to expect convenience in every aspect of their lives, and healthcare is no different. No wonder then, that more than 60 percent of consumers turn to the internet when looking for a new healthcare provider or service.¹ This preference for convenience extends past just searching for care, with consumers wanting access to self-service capabilities as often as possible. This includes self-scheduling their own appointments online, something that more than 40% of consumers — and 55% of millennials — say they prefer to do.²
Online scheduling is a priority for providers, too. A majority express high interest in the opportunity self-service scheduling offers across appointment types and channels. Why? Because in addition to better patient attrition and fewer no-shows, it promotes patient engagement, facilitates more accurate patient-provider matching,and reduces the burden on call centers, many of which are challenged by workforce shortages and budget cuts.³
Leading organizations like Intermountain Health, a Utah-based not-for-profit system of 33 hospitals and more than 3,900 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, are deploying these advanced strategies to better serve patients, clinicians, and staff long-term. Focused on empowering patients to find the right care, when and where they need it, Intermountain recognized the need to create a digital experience centered around convenience—and offering simple, intuitive online scheduling is a crucial part of that. After merging with SCL Health in 2022, Intermountain Health realized many of the benefits of overhauling its provider directory and upgrading consumer online scheduling—including a 21% increase in appointments scheduled online, most of which were from new patients.⁴
Healthcare organizations that are ready to offer self-service scheduling on their website should ensure they follow best practices for a smooth launch. These five steps are key to getting started:
Build a Unified Provider Directory:
Establish a single source of truth for provider, service, and location data
In order to implement an online scheduling solution that will be as successful as possible, a solid data foundation is critical. Therefore, building and utilizing a centralized provider data management system is essential to ensuring accurate, real-time data from various disparate source systems. Aggregating this data into a single source of truth allows you to build out a unified provider directory with robust profiles, arming patients with the information they need to choose an appointment with the appropriate provider. Including specific elements in profiles—such as clinical expertise, appointment availability, and insurances accepted—also helps increase conversion rates.
Create Organizational Alignment:
Engage Cross-Functional Stakeholders Across Your Organization
Even the best online scheduling solution won’t fully benefit your organization if the team members who will be impacted by it aren’t engaged in the process early-on. Include key cross-functional stakeholders such as marketing, IT, operations, and clinicians whose day-to-day workflow will be impacted by the addition of this new solution. As with other organizational projects and processes, on-going communication with this group will be crucial to long-term success.
Plan, Launch, Repeat:
Create a Standardized and Repeatable Launch Plan
Build a roadmap for success by developing a repeatable launch plan that will be easy to follow in the future as the online scheduling program expands. For example, establishing standard scheduling templates and protocols will streamline the go-live process and ward off any confusion. Once you’ve developed your detailed strategy for executing the launch, consider starting small by including only a subset of appointment types or providers. Take note of what worked well in that launch—and what didn’t—and apply those learnings as you broaden the roll-out to include more providers and appointment types.
Expand Care Search Options:
Broaden Booking Options Across Specialties, Appointment Types, and Services
Consumers are not solely looking to find a doctor online, but rather to find care. Once you’ve seen success with your initial launch, consider diversifying booking options across specialties and services so patients can more conveniently find the right care that meets their unique needs. Take it one step further by enabling online scheduling for appointments with any advanced practice providers employed by your organization. If you’re looking to target a specific patient population, consider using marketing campaigns to remind them of currently unscheduled screenings and other types of upcoming routine care and include a direct CTA allowing them to book the appointment with ease.
Find Care, Anywhere:
Optimize and Expand Upon Self-Service Capabilities
Your online scheduling options shouldn’t be relegated solely to your website or patient portal. Consumers want choices, and making online scheduling available on mobile apps, health plan directories, search engines, and other third-party sources meets their preference for convenience—no matter where they start their search for care. Another way to meet this preference is by adding on additional self-service capabilities such as giving patients the ability to complete pre-appointment tasks on their own time. Not only will it improve their overall experience but it will also free up time for your staff to focus on other higher-value priorities.
These steps can be customized to meet the specific needs and goals of your healthcare organization, no matter the size. Remember, you don’t have to be a large health system to reap the benefits of online scheduling and similar digital health tools. With a sound strategy and well-designed solution in place any organization can set themselves up for success.
- Kyruus, Patient Access Journey Report, 2022.
- Kyruus, Patient Access Journey Report, 2022.
- Kyruus, Provider Perspectives on Digital Access, 2022.
- Kyruus, Reinventing Digital Patient Access at SCL Health (Now Intermountain Healthcare), 2022
Scott Andrews is the Chief Delivery and Operations Officer at Kyruus, where he is responsible for implementations, customer success, and ongoing support of the customer base as well as aligning the internal operations of the company. Prior to joining Kyruus, Scott worked at athenahealth for 17 years where he served in leadership roles in Client Services, Operations, and Finance. Before athenahealth, Scott was a manager at Tufts Health Plan responsible for financial and regulatory reporting. He was also a manager in the Health Care practice at Ernst & Young and earned a Certified Public Accountant designation. Scott obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from St. Michael's College in 1990.