Online Medical Appointment Bookings Expected to Grow

By Nathan Eddy  |  Posted 2014-12-15 Print this article Print
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According to the research, it takes just under a minute to schedule medical appointments online, as compared to scheduling an appointment by phone.

By the end of 2019, two-thirds of U.S. health systems will offer self-scheduling tools for patients to book, change or cancel their appointments online, according to a report from Accenture.

In addition, roughly two-in-three patients (64 percent) are expected to book medical appointments online by the end of 2019, generating $3.2 billion in added value or potential savings for U.S. health systems.

According to the research, it takes just under a minute to schedule medical appointments online, as compared to scheduling an appointment by phone, which takes an average of 8.1 minutes – with staff transferring patient calls 63 percent of the time.

"We predict roughly two-in-three patients — or 986 million appointments--will be booked using self-scheduling tools by 2019. Digital self-scheduling tools have the potential to create significant value in the coming years," Dipak Patel, managing director of Accenture’s patient access solution, told eWEEK. "We project these tools will enable health systems to reallocate as much as $3.2 billion in scheduler capacity in 2019 alone, based on average salaries and productivity."

The research also showed that 40 of the top 100 health systems offered patients the ability to self-schedule about half of appointments in 2014, as do 10 percent of smaller U.S. health systems.

Across all health systems, the report estimates self-scheduling was offered for only 11 percent of appointments, and patients exercised this ability only 2.4 percent of the time, indicating a major opportunity for the adoption of self-scheduling tools.

"The biggest challenge in getting health systems to adopt digital self-scheduling is getting the health system to identify the untapped opportunity. Incorporating self-scheduling tools is a relatively simple process, but can be overlooked as systems are focused on other tools including implementing and refine their electronic medical record systems," Patel said.

He cited another Accenture survey that found senior citizens in the U.S. are digitally savvy when it comes to health care.

"Medicare consumers are frequently--at least once daily--online and many search for health information on the Internet," Patel explained. "Ninety-one percent are using email frequently and nearly one-third frequently login to Facebook or other social media sites."

Health systems that offer patients the ability to book their medical appointments online will be able to divert 80 percent of their appointment volume, on average, through patient self-scheduling. Accenture estimates 38 percent of total appointments – or 986 million – will be booked in 2019 using self-scheduling tools.

Overall, patients in the U.S. are digitally-savvy – even with technology related to healthcare, Patel noted. In fact, the vast majority of patients in the U.S.--90 percent--want to self-manage their healthcare leveraging technology, such as accessing medical information, refilling prescriptions and booking appointments online.

While for this particular piece of research, the findings didn’t provide an indication one way or another on the topic of consumer security and privacy concerns, a recent Accenture survey, however, found the majority of U.S. consumers with chronic conditions (69 percent) believe accessing medical records online outweighs privacy risks.


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