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Meeting patient demand through online appointment scheduling

October 14, 2016
From the October 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

The robust analytics platform identifies mismatches between supply and demand, as well as lost opportunities, such as when patients were unable to schedule because the physician was booked, or because online booking was not offered. This comprehensive analytics tool has allowed the number of bookings to increase by at least 160 percent annually, because the appointment per physician rate more than doubles each year.

Key performance metrics include:
Thirty-four percent of appointments were booked after hours, adding additional appointments and incremental revenue that the health system would have not realized without the online appointment scheduling system.
Sixty-five percent of patients were new patients brought to the health system through the online appointment scheduling system. Penn Medicine responded to the modern “consumer-patient” by expanding online availability across more access points and more providers, better capturing patient demand.

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Patient behavior and demographics include:
Patients want near-term appointments. More than one-third of bookings are made within the same week.
More than two-thirds of bookings are made within two weeks.
Physical exams, which tend to have a high reimbursement rate, account for one-third of appointments. In addition, this visit reason improves patient retention because patients tend to reuse the health system for ancillary services such as specialists.
Fifty percent of appointments are booked within a week, which helps fill the empty time slots and indicates that patients seek near-term appointments.
Since availability is shown three months out and patients are booking within a week, it shows that patients are opting for appointment times that may not be ideal, but that they are adapting to limited availability to get an appointment that week. In making this holistic view into available time slots in real time for the patient, appointment times are filled that would not otherwise be.
Approximately one-third of bookings come from patients over the age of 40.
Twenty percent of these bookings come from patients 50 years or older. This is an age group that did not grow up with technology in the same way as younger generations, but still prefer the online booking process.
More than 80 percent of patients are from commercially insured populations, resulting in high reimbursement rates.

About the author: Ronald Barg, M.D., FACP, is the executive director of Clinical Care Associates of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. Dr. Barg is board certified in internal medicine, practicing in suburban Philadelphia for 12 years prior to joining Penn.

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