June 24, 2020

Better healthcare scheduling now to reduce stress for tomorrow

Digital Transformation is a huge focus in the world of business. With the current situation many organizations are taking stock of their digital offering.
8 min read
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Jeremy Bourhis
Demand Generation Manager
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Digital Transformation is a huge focus in the world of business. With the current situation many organizations are taking stock of their digital offering, processes and tools and either voluntarily upgrading or an upgrade has been necessitated. In part by a recent shift to remote working and the need for more sophisticated technology to enable effective operation. Digital Transformation is a buzz word that you may already be familiar with if you work in Healthcare Tech. In this sector it refers to the use of digital technology to modify the existing procedures, culture and patient experience to meet the requirements of an industry that needs to keep reinventing itself. Technology has been disrupting the healthcare industry for some time. Currently this need has been amplified and digital transformation needs to both accelerate and be adopted more widely – better healthcare scheduling plays a big role in this.

Cronofy isn’t a Healthcare Tech provider but we help dozens of businesses deliver better healthcare scheduling across the world. In this blog post we’ll share our learnings and observations on how real-time, automated scheduling can transform Healthcare. It helps reduce stress for patients and healthcare professionals as well as achieve greater efficiency for everyone involved.

Appointment scheduling

When considering how scheduling can impact the healthcare process the first thing that often comes to mind are medical appointment bookings. That’s natural because booking an appointment can be a cause of stress for the patient – delays, rescheduled appointments, etc. – and missed appointments are a huge financial strain on healthcare providers. The annual cost of missed appointments is $150 billion in the US alone.

But for patients the first appointments they need to book will often be with their healthcare insurance providers. Finding out if their insurance covers them for various care will be an ongoing conversation throughout the process too. This conversation can be a time consuming and frustrating back and forth whether by email, phone, a form-fill or some other type of communication.

Because these appointments are often time-sensitive an online booking system is an ideal solution as it lets the customer book a phone or face-to-face appointment based on the real-time availability of an advisor. The booking can be done at any time, including outside office hours. It helps reduce the stress of having to wait for a call-back or confirmation. The advisors on their end have a clear view of their schedule and can manage their available and busy times.

This flexibility is also a huge benefit when it comes to booking appointments with a healthcare professional. Health issues can happen at any time and it brings a lot of reassurance to book an appointment and know that a treatment is coming. Real-time scheduling can reduce the stress for everyone involved so the focus is put on providing care and enhancing the patient experience, rather than taken up carrying out administrative tasks.

Medical appointments come in many shapes and forms. The usual process is for a patient to call the reception of their medical practice during office hours or a fixed time window in the morning for a same-day appointment. The administrative staff will then work to find a time where they can see their doctor. Often just getting through to the practice can be a chore and source of stress. Waiting in line or on hold is time consuming and adds unnecessary anxiety to the process – particularly when most practice’s opening hours mirror those of the average working day.

In effect this is no different from similar appointment processes in other industries. Using the right scheduling technology for making and monitoring the appointment can transform the entire process. The booking can be done at the convenience of the patient and can even be added to the patient’s calendar automatically. Reminders can be sent to decrease no-shows and it’s possible for these to be native within a patient’s usual schedule management system, like their email calendar.

Cancellations also need to be taken into consideration to maximize the capacity of healthcare practitioners. Being able to automatically propose a freed-up slot to a patient who wanted an earlier appointment helps improve the patient experience. That’s all possible with automated scheduling technology.

Remote consultations

Like video interviews in HR Tech, remote consultations have become increasingly popular. They aren’t an answer to all situations where a consultation is required, but can be a great alternative to having a patient come to their medical practice or to the hospital. They also have advantages over phone consultations. The face-to-face video contact feels more personal. It can help both practitioner and patient to feel more connected and any concerns or emotions are easier to pick up on.

Remote consultations help provide better healthcare on-demand. Because there is no need for the patient or the doctor to commute, they can happen almost instantly based on everyone’s availability. They are also less likely to overrun. Precise time slots are booked and require no buffer either side for travel and arrival check-in. We see scenarios where patients are able to book a consultation via a healthcare marketplace and speak to a doctor, via a video conferencing service in a few minutes – certainly usually the same day if desired.

In situations where there is a contagion risk, virtual appointments also help protect society as patients who present a risk don’t have to be in contact with other people on public transport. The healthcare practitioners also don’t put themselves at risk of exposure and there is no risk of spreading a disease further on the practice site, for example in the waiting room where there will likely be other patients.

On a human level it can also be another way to relieve stress for the patient and to put their care and wellbeing at the centre of the process. This system is also less time consuming for the patient and this can hugely enhance their experience. A lot of the hassle that goes a long with things like travel, taking time off work and the worry of potentially running late is entirely removed.

In many scenarios not needing to travel or be around others is hugely beneficial. There are situations where particular physical illnesses present mobility barriers and create independent transportation issues. Some mental health concerns can also have anxiety attached. For example, with actually travelling away from home or being in a medical facility of any kind. These can be eliminated by the use of appointment booking technology and the automated scheduling tools that enables it.

In practice the appointment booking is similar to any face-to-face appointment although it would be more likely to be booked online than over the phone. The calendar invite or push notification sent to the patient to confirm the remote consultation can include a link to a video conferencing service automatically. It’s hassle-free for both the organizer and patient.

Healthcare marketplaces

We’ve observed an increase in healthcare marketplaces looking to provide better scheduling processes to their users and have worked with several to set up automated scheduling. Healthcare marketplaces come in all different shapes and sizes, from at-home care services to remote consultation booking. Docplanner Group and Zesty are both examples of our clients who are leading the charge in digital healthcare. They’ve adopted automated scheduling, powered by Cronofy’s API, to enhance their online offering.

When a customer wants to book a healthcare service through a marketplace, the scheduling process will often be the first impression they will get of an organization. They will need to trust and rely on them for their well-being. It’s important to make a good first impression and to make the process as simple and user-friendly as possible.

The healthcare scheduling appointment process needs to be seamless and stress-free. That’s why allowing bookings to happen at any time, based on real-time availability is critical. It’s also why marketplaces require the healthcare professionals who deliver advice through these online services to sync their calendars to the platform. It prevents double-bookings and lessens the impact of missed appointments as cancellations are immediately reflection and can also very likely be re-allocated.

Well-being and fitness

Another trend in Healthcare Tech is the rise of apps and tools aiming to decrease the need for medical visits and prescribed treatments. From diet plans to exercise regimes there are more and more solutions available for personal use but also for enterprises who want to encourage their employees to be healthier.

The ability to add events to calendars – for check-ups or reminders – is very important in order to help the users stick to their plans.

Overall, we are observing an increase in scheduling use cases for Healthcare. These use cases focus on using digital tools to improve the patient experience. Putting the patient first while also easing the admin burden on very busy healthcare professionals is paramount to improving the process for all parties and technology adoption can deliver just this.

Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have only put an additional spotlight on some of these technologies. Improved scheduling processes and remote appointments have become necessity. We expect that even when the world is back to “normal”, automated scheduling will continue to be used to improve the patient experience, reduce costs and stress, for both patients and healthcare professionals everywhere.