By Jason Kressel, MyHealthDirect
The digital revolution in healthcare has officially begun, with a host of new technologies that make access to care easier for patients leading the way. As the effects of this revolution take foot, specialty care groups—especially orthopedists—are feeling pressure to become more consumer-centric, notably by making their services more accessible. Many orthopedists are hesitant to create that type of ‘open door policy,’ however, and for good reason. The needs of patients seeking orthopedic care are so much more complex and specific than primary care, it can be difficult to ensure you are capturing all of the necessary information up-front before scheduling a first appointment. It doesn’t benefit anyone if they can easily schedule appointments only to be placed with the wrong provider. Despite these challenges, orthopedic groups can and are successfully leveraging new technology to open the digital front door, starting with online scheduling. Here’s why:
1. Consumerism Demands Self-Service
Orthopedic care is traditionally non-recurring, with new patients coming through the door all the time for emergent or one-time care needs. This means most orthopedic practices are relying on their efforts to attract new patients, rather than retain them, and need to find a way to stand out among the competition.
The methods of attracting new patients, though, are no different in orthopedic care than they are in traditional healthcare. Today, more than ever, patients crave self-service. Accustomed to technology that enhances and simplifies every other aspect of their lives, they demand technology that provides flexible and convenient access to care.
Online self-scheduling allows orthopedic practices to provide this level of self-service to patients. Different than ‘Request an Appointment’ features, online self-scheduling allows patients to actually view in real-time all upcoming appointment availability for a provider. They can choose the day and time option that works best for their schedule, and book right there on the spot, any time of day or night via their mobile device or computer. No need to wait for office hours to make a phone call, and no waiting to hear back about appointment availability.
2. The Devil Is In The Detail
As a sub-specialty and, often times, a more urgent form of care, the booking process for orthopedics requires a significant amount of preliminary information (insurance verification, condition, care history, etc.) to both understand the care need and match patients with the best-fit doctor and appointment time based on that care need.
This scenario requires an online scheduling solution with sophisticated decision support that can account for all of those details on the front end of the booking process in as little time possible. Patients answer a few short, simple questions about themselves and their care need and that information is used to match them to the most appropriate physician. Automated business rules also let providers maintain control over their calendars, allowing them to designate which appointment slots are available for which patients (by insurance type, level of injury, patient age, etc.).
Capturing this detail up-front in the scheduling process meets patient urgency, encourages patient safety, and gives providers a more manageable schedule.
3. The Need For Omni-Channel Access
Improved scheduling extends well beyond just allowing patients to book their own appointments online. Despite the availability of self-scheduling technology, there will always be those individuals who prefer to call to schedule an appointment. This is truer for health systems or larger provider organizations that have orthopedics as part of their overall offering, where new patients are filtered through a centralized call center.
Thankfully, the same elements that make online self-scheduling so successful for orthopedic care also can exist and work just as well for call center staff with enterprise-grade digital care coordination technology. With a direct integration into the organizations electronic health record (EHR) or practice management system (PMS), call center agents have a real-time view of provider availability allowing them to see and book the closest available appointment for patients while on the phone. Decision support and business rules help guide those same agents through the booking process, providing patients with the best-fit provider and appointment in as little time possible. With less time spent on the phone, patients are much more likely to complete the booking process and follow through on receiving the care they need.
Being consumer-centric is no longer a ‘nice to have.’ Any orthopedic group seeking long-term success will need to meet patients with the experience they’ve become accustomed to in other parts of their life – one where technology enhances their interaction with preferred businesses. Fail to provide this convenience and one risks being left behind.
About The Author
Jason Kressel is the chief operating officer of MyHealthDirect.