Guest Column | February 3, 2016

Reduce Lost Appointments By Aligning Digital Technology With Patient Behavior

HITO, Tom Cox, MyHealthDirect

By Tom Cox, CEO, MyHealthDirect

Historically, practices have had no-show rates ranging from 5 to 50 percent. The reality is, missed appointments happen and, when they do, cost the practice both time and money. There are numerous reasons why patients miss appointments, but many of them could have been prevented.

Simply writing down the wrong date or not getting an appointment reminder call are two leading causes of lost appointments. The real issue is these no-shows can be easily avoided by leveraging new digital technology. When patients use digital scheduling tools, they will receive automated email confirmations which eliminate transcription errors and do not require them to answer a phone call.

Another way providers can reduce lost appointments is by making rescheduling easier. At the end of the day, patients are people and people have changing schedules. Once again, by using digital scheduling tools providers can offer a clear path for patients to reschedule their appointments when things come up.

Unfortunately, many current scheduling tools require patients to use the phone, wait in a queue, and be presented with a series of limited time options when looking to reschedule an appointment. This inconvenience can lead to patients becoming easily frustrated, often giving up and not leaving any notification of the requested change of appointment.

Eighty-seven percent of healthcare organizations say patient satisfaction is their top priority. If this is the case, then why are healthcare providers still opting to use old and out of date scheduling techniques to interact with their patients?

Technology needs to be flexible, adapting to the modern lives of patients and making the rescheduling of care just as easy and hassle free as the first visit. By 2019, Accenture estimates that 986 million appointments will be booked using self-scheduling tools. This provides health systems with an important chance to reallocate $3.2 billion in scheduler capacity that year alone.

With real opportunities available for health system providers to adapt to changing market conditions, what are the key benefits of using digital technology to enhance the scheduling of appointments?

  • Timelier appointments: patients can select the appointments they want without having to alter and reschedule at a later date. The preferred appointments are provided immediately, resulting in fewer cancellations and no-shows.
  • Shorter waiting lists: flexible technology enables a reduction in long patient waiting lists, ensuring that patients are available to fill last minute appointments when an opening appears.
  • Reduction in cancellations: easy to use technology and timely reminders will help to decrease the rate of cancelled appointments, providing patients with an effective way to make changes to their medical meetings without giving up at the first hurdle.
  • Improved patient satisfaction: a simpler scheduling system makes for a happy patient. Convenient and flexible access to care, secure communication and the option to electronically schedule and reschedule appointments puts the power solely in the hands of the patient.
  • Staff productivity: less time spent on chasing down patients who are no-shows helps to increase levels of staff productivity. Morale is boosted, and staff are freed up from tasks that can often overshadow the real work that needs to be completed.
  • Increase in patient engagement: efficient scheduling software can lead to an increase in patient engagement. With trust placed in the system, patients are compelled to take an active role in their care and have a greater understanding of their results, treatments and options.

Technology must adapt if we are to reach all of these goals. If technology is to truly achieve the intended benefits, and enable doctors to align with various channels, providers must invest in efficient and easy to use scheduling software that’s simple, convenient, and adaptable to a patient’s life from start to finish. In doing this, we can say goodbye to scheduling clashes and missed appointments, and welcome a new age of efficient healthcare and engaged patients.