- Ascension has commenced a nationwide campaign to encourage online scheduling for primary care, urgent care and emergency room visits.
- To date, more than 1,200 providers in Ascension’s 22 markets offer online scheduling in those areas, and plans are underway to expand the options to specialty care and diagnostic and imaging services.
- Since launching online scheduling last fall, the Catholic health system launched has tallied about 20,000 web- or portal-based appointments a month, according to Modern Healthcare.
The move to online scheduling comes as hospitals are under growing pressure to raise patient satisfaction and convenience.
According to a 2017 Merritt Hawkins survey, Americans in 15 metropolitan areas wait an average of 24.1 days to get a new patient appointment — up 30% from 2014. Online scheduling allows for last-minute appointments, cuts down on cancellations and enables same-day scheduling, which studies have shown patient prefer.
“Consumers are already online looking for care options near them,” Nick Ragone, Ascension’s senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer, said in a statement. “Providing an easy way to immediately schedule appointments strengthens consumer relationships and differentiates our brand.”
An Accenture report predicts 66% of health systems will offer online scheduling by 2019, and 64% of patients will utilize the option. This will allow health systems to reduce call center staff and other resources associated with scheduling, at a nationwide savings of $3.2 billion, the report says.
And studies show that consumers want providers with a strong online presence. In a Doctor.com survey on healthcare customer experience, two-thirds of respondents — including 67% of those age 60 and older — said they will choose a provider over another based on online presence.
And patients aren't using the internet just to find doctors. About 45% of respondents said they prefer digital options to make an appointment.