8 Inconvenient Truths About Online Scheduling

2 min read

Organizations are increasingly turning to technology as strategic solutions to overcome staffing challenges and achieve cost savings. However, when it comes to patient scheduling there is a significant gap between the intended benefits and reality. While online scheduling systems are implemented with the goal of streamlining processes, they often fall short of meeting the nuanced needs of patients and providers. In this article we will identify 8 inconvenient truths about online scheduling technologies…

1.    Many self-service platforms function as an appointment request system, not a genuine scheduler.

Many self-scheduling systems require approval from staff before an appointment is booked. In fact, in a recent survey, 70% of patients who had attempted to schedule an appointment online said they were routed to a call center agent to complete their request. 

2.    Patient adoption rate is low.

It may be true that 90% of patients say they want access to digital scheduling tools, but few will actually use them. 80% of healthcare organizations that offer online scheduling see less than 20% participation from their patient communities. Some surveys indicate less than 3% of healthcare appointments are booked online. 

3.    Patients often select the wrong provider, specialty, or appointment type.

Online scheduling can be complex, leading to errors in patients choosing what kind of appointment they need and with whom. In fact, 61% of patients say they have delayed care because the self-scheduling system was too complicated.

4.    Scheduling platforms have limited options for customization.

Scheduling technologies can be inflexible due to the necessity to fit unique practice guidelines, physician preferences, and workflows into their pre-defined system. This often creates the need for templating and process redesign before implementation and can box providers in with few options for variance in appointment length, type, or scheduling blocks.   

5.    Self-scheduling opens doors to HIPAA violations and data breaches.

Many patients are weary of sharing sensitive personal data online, and they should be— cyberattacks on healthcare organizations continue to rise year over year, with the average cost of a breach reaching $10 million. Online scheduling platforms can present risks for patients and providers.

6.    Patients are not capable of recognizing emergent health issues.

Patients may be capable of self-scheduling, but few can self-screen. Digital scheduling platforms aren’t capable of it either, which means they cannot escalate calls to a nurse, page a provider, direct a patient to the emergency room, or call 911.

7.    They create new barriers to access.

Online scheduling tools require a reliable internet connection and a degree of tech-savvy that can alienate rural and aging patient populations. Research shows that older populations have greater difficulty with self-service technologies and report missing human interaction to a greater degree— these are also the patients who book the most appointments

8.    There is no such thing as a tech-only staffing solution.

Aside from approving appointment requests, staff needs to verify patient data, sync and monitor calendar field calls, and pick up any tasks (like pre-registration) that aren’t automated in the platform. The reality is that online scheduling systems require attention and maintenance… and create workloads of their own. They do not fully replace the need for staff.

Envera provides the right combination of people and tech to optimize scheduling and improve the access experience. Schedule a consultation today to learn more about our custom solutions.