Using online appointment scheduling to improve patient engagement

By Shannon Geis
August 2, 2016
Body of Knowledge Domain(s):

The idea that providing digital access to patients can improve patient engagement isn’t necessarily a new one, but the actual implementation can seem out of reach. 

For Steven Bisha, MBA, director of operations, Clinical Care Associates (CCA) at Penn Medicine, Philadelphia, adopting an online scheduling program for CCA has been essential to meeting patient needs. 

“There is a shift in healthcare toward consumerism,” explained Jordan Pisarcik, who is the vice president of business development for DocASAP, which partnered with Penn Medicine to implement online scheduling for CCA. “Patients expect convenience and a certain level of service, so healthcare systems are responding by being much more service oriented.”  

According to Piscarcik, 72% of patients want the ability to book and manage appointments online but most online solutions don’t meet the demand. 

“The gap here for us was how do we get new patients the ability to schedule online,” said Bisha. “We recognized the need to implement a solution to satisfy patients’ needs at their convenience.” 

Bisha and CCA decided to go with a multi-channel approach. They began offering online scheduling through their own website, as well as through DocASAP and other partner sites, because “patients don’t look in just one place all the time,” said Bisha. 

One of the biggest challenges Bisha faced in implementing the new scheduling system was getting providers to buy into it. A number of providers would block out their schedules and not allow much room for online scheduling. “I sat down and talked to these providers about the long-term benefits of the system and was able to convince them to open up their schedules,” explained Bisha. 

The analytics CCA was able to gather from the new system also helped them better understand their patients’ needs. They found that new patients represented nearly two-thirds of all the bookings on the online system and that most patients booking with the new system sought near-term appointments. 

“We used the data to understand patient behavior and provider availability,” said Bisha, which allowed CCA to address discrepancies between the two.  

Overall, CCA has seen 8-10 times the ROI, but “the greatest value of online scheduling is the patient being able to drive the process themselves,” said Bisha.

To learn more about the Clinical Care Associates’ implementation of online appointment scheduling, check out our recent webinar, “Improving Patient Engagement by Digitizing Patient Access.” 

Shannon Geis, Staff writer/editor, MGMA

Article Comments

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Tim - 8/23/2016 10:15:10 AM
I agree with your assessment. Provider buy-in and convincing them to open their schedules is a challenge. Limiting the open slots for online booking can create access challenges and further patient frustration. This can also further confuse the assessment of CG-CAHPS Access to Care scores and whether the bottleneck is phones for scheduling, on-line scheduling or returned phone calls due to questions. Implementation is still a must in our environment. Thank you for highlighting the issue!

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