Cindy Borders
Client Account Executive, Streamline Health, Inc.

When consumers can go online to schedule flights, book hotel rooms and schedule service calls from their utility providers, it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re now expecting the ability to schedule their doctor appointments online as well.  The first wave of patient self scheduling involved requesting—if not outright scheduling—a physician office visit. The next wave will involve the ability to self schedule supporting services such as routine tests, diagnostic procedures and other ancillary services ordered every day by physicians.

Providing the ability to self schedule these ancillary services is more complex than scheduling a 10-minute follow-up visit with the physician.   Many procedures require numerous clinical questions to be answered (patient weight, current medications, previous reactions, etc.) along with securing necessary clearance from the insurance carrier, not to mention ensuring the correct procedure is being scheduled based upon the physician’s order. This represents a much more complex “ask” of the scheduling system with regards to accessing and reconciling information, as it often resides on different systems at different locations.

With hospital patient portals becoming more user friendly for paying bills, finding a physician and completing online forms, expanding those same portals to include self-scheduling of these supporting services is a natural next step for forward-thinking providers.

While offering this access is complex, it can be accomplished—and integration is the key:

  • The self-scheduling portal must “plug in” to the hospital portal to prevent multiple logons
  • It should be integrated with the physician ordering system (electronic or faxed) to ensure the correct procedures are being scheduled
  • The patient portal must be a component of a rules-based, enterprise-wide scheduling system to ensure the patient can work their way through proper clinical screening and select from conflict-free times
  • The portal should enable a pre-registration process for the financial clearance requirements, which is even more crucial in this era of increased self-pay responsibility

With health care becoming more competitive, increasing your appeal to patients and physicians is more important than ever. Offering the convenience of online portals to manage this engagement will increase satisfaction while also improving staff efficiency, making it a win/win scenario for all stakeholders.