How To Achieve Buy-In for Online Scheduling
Every year we attend Academy, we come away with fresh insights to industry challenges and opportunities. Online scheduling is a theme that seems to resurface again and again. Yet, only a fraction of practices have implemented the solution that patients continue to ask for. Are you interested in how to achieve buy-in for online scheduling?
Earlier this year, we earmarked an article on asoa.org called “Running the Practice: Online Patient Scheduling.” It is a great article and if you haven’t had the chance to check it out, you can read it here. In the Administrative Eyecare issue, North Caroline Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat (NCEENT) outlines how the practice overcame resistance to achieve the benefits of online scheduling.
In an era where consumers can book flights, schedule a plumber, or book a restaurant, day or night, from their mobile device or laptop, shouldn’t patients expect the same convenience when it comes to booking an appointment with their physician?
–Sinéad E. Ingersoll, MHSA, CMPE, Chief Operating Officer at North Carolina Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat
While the practice knew that patients wanted the convenience of booking their own appointments, there was still hesitation among physicians. Three main concerns emerged:
- Losing control – providers believed they would be giving up control of their schedules.
- Bottleneck effect – fear that appointment types might be scheduled in the wrong time slots causing clinic to run late.
- Non par – do we participate with the patient’s insurance?
How To Achieve Buy-In for Online Scheduling
As a multi-doctor, multi-location practice, Ingersoll knew she needed to show stakeholders the benefits. Here are the four steps she used to achieve buy-in for online scheduling:
STEP 1 | First, pilot online scheduling with one doctor. Starting small allowed NCEENT to build an efficient workflow and make adjustments along the way, allowing providers who were once hesitant to see the benefits of online scheduling.
STEP 2 | Next, engage early. Providers, clinical staff and appointment schedulers were engaged in the process. From the early pilot to rolling out the functionality to all physicians, it was easy for team members to see what was working and where adjustments needed to be made.
STEP 3 | Third, develop workflow protocols that help you succeed. The practice created rules around different appointment types and set alerts to notify the practice when an online appointment was booked. Team members were involved throughout the process to check alerts, review and verify appointment details, and promote scheduling efficiencies. Assigning groups to certain tasks helped alleviate concerns that various appointment types were booked appropriately.
STEP 4 | Finally, educate and promote to patients. To create awareness about online scheduling, NCEENT updated the on-hold message, placed posters throughout the practice, and placed a “highly-visible Book Online button” on the practice website.
10 Key Benefits of Online Scheduling
In its third year, 4,000 online appointments were made. This includes patients who booked, rescheduled, or cancelled appointments through the portal. NCEENT has experienced 10 key benefits of online scheduling:
1. Staff and physician buy-in.
2. Reduced phone calls.
3. More time for schedulers and staff to focus on other tasks.
4. Reduced no-show rate.
5. More detailed information from patients using their own words compared to staff documentation.
6. Practice differentiator in a competitive market.
7. Increase in new patient appointments which account for ~10% of all online appointments.
8. Higher score on MIPS due to patient engagement measures.
9. Increased traffic and usage of the portal.
10. Positive feedback from patients about convenience.
How Sophrona Can Help Your Practice Achieve Buy-In for Online Scheduling
In conclusion, this article describes how the author navigates the gap between consumer demand for online scheduling and physician reluctance to open their schedules. Likewise, our experience reflects NCEENT. Doctors tend to overestimate the complexity of their schedules and administrators have difficulty braving this headwind.
Our advice is to start small — follow the best practices laid out above. As a result, those who achieve buy-in lead their organizations to deliver an entirely new level of patient experience with operational efficiencies.
Need help launching a pilot in your practice? You might be surprised to learn that your portal already has built-in functionality that can be activated to allow for online scheduling. Learn more about how Sophrona can help your practice with online appointments.