By Katie Wike, contributing writer
According to a new report from Accenture, in the next five years online appointment scheduling will see a dramatic increase.
Online scheduling of appointments has reduced wait times and made emergency room processes less stressful for patients and providers alike, according to a report earlier this year. Through an online portal, patients are able to book a time to come to the ER for issues such as broken bones or fevers and wait at home rather than in a room full of sick people.
Now, a report from Accenture finds five years from now, 67 percent of patients will be scheduling their appointments online, and not just for the ER. They predict that in 2019, 38 percent of appointments will be self-scheduled – that adds up to 986 million appointments. The report also predicts that 66 percent of providers will have the capability to offer digital self-scheduling.
“Just as consumers use online tools to book restaurant reservations or request a cab, patients want the same experience in self-booking a doctor’s appointment,” said Dipak Patel, managing director of Accenture’s patient access solutions in a news release. “Evidence also shows health systems can use self-scheduling tools to boost appointment capacity, reduce costs and/or increase productivity.”
Today, patients self-schedule about 2.4 percent of appointments. About 11 percent of appointments nationwide can be self-scheduled this year. Forty percent of the top 100 hospitals offer self-scheduling and only 10 percent of the remaining providers offer the service.
Researchers say it takes just under a minute to schedule medical appointments online. Scheduling an appointment by phone takes an average of 8.1 minutes and staff transfer patient calls 63 percent of the time. Both these statistics are below other industry’s averages.
“Adopting self-scheduling delivers value by enabling call center capacity and workforce to be reassigned to more complex activities,” added Patel. “By making general appointment scheduling available online, health systems can reduce excess capacity, offer 24/7 scheduling and better manage schedules to maximize availability and capacity.”