Online medical appointment scheduling plays a key role in physician practice management. Scheduling appointments correctly and efficiently promotes workflow efficiency, increases revenues and improves patient satisfaction. However, there are many challenges which can affect the efficiency of the scheduling process such as no-shows, unexpected cancellations and rescheduling requirements, and last-minute emergencies. Here are some insights on how to successfully navigate the appointment scheduling process:

Firstly, create a structured patient appointment scheduling system. There are many ways to schedule appointments such as time-specified, wave, modified wave, double booking, and open booking. Appointments can also be categorized depending on the patient type or type of examination or treatment. The physician needs to choose the method that best meets his needs, determine the number of patients he wants to see, and also the time allotted to the work.

A recent study evaluated the efficacy of a new doctor’s appointment model called shared medical appointments (SMAs) and reported that this method not only increases practice efficiency, but also improves patient satisfaction and education. Researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing scheduled patients in group doctor’s appointments which were found to offer the benefits of the traditional one-on-one appointment, while also enabling patient education in a group setting. Patients got new knowledge on their condition from the questions asked by others in the group. The advantage of the SMA model in small practice settings is that it allowed providers to see more patients in a time frame, while enhancing outcomes.

After choosing the appropriate method, physicians need to use appropriate medical scheduling software to implement the process efficiently. In fact, outsourcing companies offer patient appointment scheduling services using state-of-the-art software which automates much of the process, allowing everything from quick confirmation of scheduled visits, appointment changes, cancellations, calendaring of schedules, patient reminders, and more.

In addition to being more cost-effective, medical appointment software offers the following benefits:

  • Automated appointment confirmation is better than phone reminders when it reducing no-shows and improving patient compliance.
  • As the system provides a clear idea of the patients who are coming, physicians can be ready with their chart or file and any other necessary paperwork such as insurance eligibility verification.
  • More flexible appointment time-slots can be created based on historical data.
  • Appointment scheduling can be done any time of the day and any day of the week.

According to a new report from the American Hospital Association based on a 2015 survey of more than 3,500 hospitals, online appointment scheduling grew steadily over the last three years, from 31 percent in 2013 to 40 percent in 2014 and 45 percent last year. This clearly indicates that competent medical appointment scheduling services are making a significant difference to the way physicians manage patient visits.