The Role of Advanced Patient Scheduling Systems in Healthcare

Patient scheduling has always been an important part of any healthcare practice’s operations. Since healers first came into the picture, people have been setting appointment times to receive treatment.

However, as healthcare has advanced, so too has patient scheduling. Today’s patient scheduling systems are no longer mere appointment books and paper records but relatively advanced platforms with various features. 

Let’s take a closer look at the history, benefits, and features of patient appointment scheduling. 

The Evolution of Patient Scheduling Systems

In the past, patient appointment systems weren’t as advanced as they are today. They did not send reminders or integrate with electronic health records (EHRs). 

The evolution of patient scheduling has taken its due course. We have come quite far, from a paper slip with the patient’s name and appointment time to software-based systems that handle multiple schedules simultaneously. 

The Historical Landscape of Patient Scheduling in Healthcare

While we can’t tell when the first doctor’s appointment was made in history, one thing is clear: doctors were a scarce resource back in the day. So, people had to queue — or wait in line — to get their services. Here, a queue doesn’t necessarily mean forming a straight line but refers to a schedule that the doctor worked by. 

Over the past few hundred years, appointment scheduling has become more and more sophisticated. In the past, people would often travel across cities just to see a specialist.  

Around the start of the 21st century came the advent of waiting rooms. Healthcare practices started having designated areas for patients to wait before their appointments.

Appointment scheduling also became a bit more advanced. Instead of physically visiting private practices to book appointments, patients could simply call. 

The Shift Toward Advanced Patient Scheduling Systems

What started with in-person scheduling transformed into scheduling via phone calls and then via email. Today, we have moved a step ahead — appointment scheduling has never been as easy as it is today. The patient scheduling software era is in action. 

Advanced patient scheduling systems come with a host of features for both patients and healthcare providers. For patients, these features may include online appointment booking and automated reminders and notifications, while healthcare providers may benefit from streamlined communication with patients and improved clinic efficiency. 

The main medium of patient scheduling has also changed — from phone calls or emails to mobile applications. 

A survey found that 55% of the patients still prefer to schedule appointments via phone, while 45% still prefer smartphones and computers. The survey also gauged the relationship between age groups and preferred appointment scheduling methods. 

Moreover, the survey found that older people are more likely to use phone calls, but people aged 30 to 44 prefer computer- or smartphone-based scheduling. 

Moving forward, we’ll likely see more advancements in online patient scheduling. Since Gen Z has grown up with the convenience of doing everything through an app, they’ll probably be the ones pushing for more mobile-based scheduling options.

Key Features and Components of Advanced Patient Scheduling Systems

Modern patient scheduling software has several key features that make the appointment scheduling and management process easier for both the patient and the provider.

Here are some standard components of a patient scheduler software. 

Appointment Reminders and Notifications

Today, appointment scheduling is not a one-time task but an ongoing one. Medical practices want to go above and beyond to assist their patients and improve their level of care. 

One way they do this is by using a scheduling system that sends automated reminders and notifications to patients about their upcoming appointments. These reminders can be sent through various channels, such as email, text messages, in-app messages, or phone calls. 

For the patient, this is an added service because the medical practice helps them remember their appointment time and date. As for the practice, it means fewer no-shows and less lost revenue. 

Here’s how it usually works: 

  • A patient calls or books an appointment through the designated app of the healthcare practice. 
  • They receive an appointment confirmation if their chosen time slot is available. 
  • The system records the scheduled appointment. 
  • It sends the patient an automated reminder a day or two before their scheduled appointment, depending on the preference set by the patient. 
  • The reminder is sent via the patient’s preferred channel. 

Online Booking and Self-Scheduling

Around 95% of the respondents said they had booked a doctor’s appointment online or would do it if the option was available. The preference for online scheduling differed across age groups, but the demand remained at 90% among all generations. 

Not surprisingly, 97% of Gen X participants and 99% of millennials reported that they would use self-service appointment scheduling if that were an option. These figures clarify that self-scheduling is not just a convenience but also a necessity for medical practices. That’s why many modern patient scheduling tools have this feature. 

Patients can go to the healthcare practice’s website, select the provider they want to see, choose an available date and time slot, and enter their information. The software syncs with the healthcare provider’s calendar. They can then confirm the appointment based on their availability. 

Since this happens online, the patient doesn’t have to call the clinic even once. It saves them time and the anxiety that comes with making a phone call, especially for introverted patients. 

The preference for online scheduling is why the appointment scheduling software market is forecasted to grow by $633.47 million from 2021 to 2025. Healthcare organizations that adopt this technology will stay abreast of patients’ changing needs and demands. 

Two-Way and Bulk Texting for Seamless Communication

Gone are the days when patients were okay with simply receiving a confirmation and calling it a day. Now, they want to give their input, too. 

This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, patient communication saves healthcare organizations money. 

For example, if a patient doesn’t make it in for an appointment due to an unexpected reason, they can simply let the medical practice know. The clinic can then find a replacement for that open appointment slot. 

Two-way communication is one of the many advanced features of modern patient scheduling software. It works by enabling patients to respond to appointment confirmations or reminders via text message. 

Suppose a patient schedules an appointment for Tuesday at 4 p.m. On Monday at 4 p.m., you send them a reminder. If they have decided not to show up or cannot come in for some reason, they can reply with a “U” or “unavailable,” and the slot will be automatically opened. The patient can send a “C” if they want to confirm. 

Similarly, bulk texting also helps. Let’s say a dermatology practice is hosting a skin cancer screening event. Instead of texting each patient individually, the clinic can send bulk messages to all their previous patients. 

Healthcare organizations can also use bulk texting to: 

  • Update patients about operational hours.
  • Send seasonal greetings and newsletters.
  • Notify patients about new services or treatments.
  • Inform patients about any changes in insurance policies or billing procedures.
  • Remind patients about upcoming events or webinars.

Mobile and Desktop Apps for Convenient Schedule Management

Patients no longer have to carry a laptop to schedule an appointment. They can simply use their phones. 

Today’s patient scheduling software comes with mobile app versions. Patients can use these apps to schedule appointments and stay in touch with the medical practice. The same app also sends in-app reminders. 

Some apps also have a resource section where patients can access important documents and educational materials about their health. For example, patients can check what they need to bring along to their appointments. 

Patient Portal Integration for Enhanced Engagement

Some of the best patient scheduling software out there also integrate patient portals. These portals are secure online platforms where patients can access their medical records and lab results. They also serve as a medium for patients to communicate with their healthcare providers. 

Patients can see the available appointment slots here to choose one that suits them. The same platform also lets them schedule appointments. If they need to reschedule, they can do that with a few clicks. 

Patients can also make payments and view their billing history through these portals. These features improve patient care quality, eventually leading to high show rates. 

Benefits of Implementing Advanced Patient Scheduling Systems

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that advanced patient scheduling tools are the best way to assist patients in scheduling appointments and managing their health. They’re beneficial not only for medical practices but also for the patients. It’s a win-win. 

The following benefits make a strong case for this claim. 

Improved Patient Experience and Satisfaction

Patient experience is a critical indicator in the healthcare industry. If patients are not happy with your service, they won’t come back. Poor patient satisfaction ultimately leads to reputation damage and financial loss. 

One way to prevent this is to make patient visits as comfortable as possible. It all starts with the appointment. When the initial process is easy, the patient experience improves automatically. 

Patient scheduling software empowers patients to schedule their appointments at their convenience. They can book, reschedule, or cancel appointments anytime, anywhere via mobile. 

It also allows patients to choose their preferred healthcare provider and time slot, as well as to decide which channel they want to get notifications from. The more control you give the patient over their appointments, the better their experience will be.

Increased Operational Efficiency for Healthcare Providers

Did you know offering online bookings gets 29% of new business clients? For Reserve with Google bookings, the percentage is up to 64. 

The same holds for healthcare appointments. Besides getting new patients, such a scheduling system reduces overhead costs and improves operational efficiency.

Since patients can schedule their appointments themselves, you don’t need as many staff members to handle appointments over the phone. Also, patient scheduling software does most of the work, like sending appointment confirmations and reminders to the patients when the time comes. 

That way, healthcare providers have less paperwork and fewer phone calls, leaving them more time for actual patient care. 

Enhanced Appointment Adherence and Reduced No-Shows

No-shows are among the most significant challenges for healthcare providers. Not only do they result in lost revenue, but they can also disrupt the entire schedule and lead to missed opportunities for other patients.

Patient scheduling solutions let healthcare providers keep the patient schedule in consideration. Since patients choose the appointment slots themselves, there’s a lower chance of no-shows. 

Also, automated reminders for patient appointments increase adherence. Patients have a lower risk of forgetting their appointments because they get an email or phone call ahead of time. 

Streamlined Staff Workflows and Administrative Tasks

Administrative tasks make up a chunk of work in a medical practice. A patient scheduler can streamline these tasks. 

Automated features like appointment reminders and integrated EHRs can reduce the need for manual data entry and paperwork. Plus, online scheduling and self-service save staff time, which they can use for in-clinic patient care instead. 

Similarly, with patient scheduling software, there’s little to no risk of duplicate appointments or double bookings. The software wouldn’t let a patient book an appointment that overlaps with another, avoiding any chaos later on. 

Learn more about our patient engagement platform

Learn more about important features such as online booking, two-way texting, appointment reminders, and more with Demandforce.

Get More Appointments With Demandforce

When you need to incorporate a reliable patient scheduler in your medical practice’s patient scheduling strategy, look no further than Demandforce. While the platform’s online booking feature brings in more appointments by letting patients book their preferred slots, the automated reminders feature ensures that patients don’t forget about their appointments. Demandforce’s calendar syncs with your management system, allowing patients to see which slots are available for booking.

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