Patient satisfaction

The Importance of Self-Scheduling in Enhancing Patient Satisfaction

June 15, 2023
7 min read
Last updated on
  • Self-scheduling in healthcare may benefit both medical practices and patients.
  • Patient self-scheduling allows individuals to book appointments online in real time from wherever they are and at any time of day.
  • With Klara — a leading conversational patient engagement platform — you can help optimize your practice’s “digital front door” by offering digital patient engagement and communication options, including patient self-scheduling.
The Importance of Self-Scheduling in Enhancing Patient Satisfaction

There’s been a lot of discussion around the “digital front door” in healthcare — especially since the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the industry’s digital transformation into high gear. At a high level, the digital front door is a strategy whereby healthcare organizations use technology to keep patients engaged at every step of their care journey and provide self-service, on-demand options where it makes sense — case in point: self-scheduling appointments.

Self-scheduling is not a new phenomenon. Consumers have been booking their own services across various industries. Think dinner reservations, spa treatments, airfare, and hotel stays. While the norm for many industries, self-scheduling in healthcare has had a delayed adoption but is increasing in popularity — and bringing with it a host of potential patient and provider benefits.

Table of contents

What is patient self-scheduling and why is it important?

More and more healthcare providers are adopting digital solutions like self-scheduling to help improve their patient experience. Patient self-scheduling allows patients to book their doctor's appointments online, from their mobile devices, or through a patient portal — without needing to make a phone call. 

If you haven’t embraced online booking for your medical practice, consider these stats:

  • 73% of patients want to self-schedule
  • 70% of respondents stated that in the past year, they have tried to schedule a healthcare appointment online via a patient portal, website or app, but were redirected to call a phone number to finish scheduling. 
  • The appointment scheduling software market across industries is expected to grow by $633.47 million by 2025.
  • 88% of healthcare organizations plan to invest in a self-scheduling solution as an area of investment in the patient engagement category.

As a result of this growing trend, your practice may want to consider adding patient self-scheduling to its tech stack. Keep scrolling to see how self-scheduling in healthcare may benefit both patients and providers alike. 

What are the potential benefits of self-scheduling for patients?

Allowing patients to book online appointments offers benefits that may ultimately lead to improved patient engagement. These potential benefits include but are not limited to, increased access to care, more convenience and better time management, and an enhanced patient experience.

1. Increased access to care

A study shows that 61% of patients have skipped going to the doctor because scheduling an appointment was too much of a hassle. 

Although calling a doctor’s office to schedule an appointment may not seem like it should take a lot of work, some patients work long hours or cannot make personal calls during the day, for example. Online schedulers are available 24/7, so patients can make their appointments whenever they need or are able to, including outside business hours.

2. More convenience and better time management

Booking anything online — whether it be a dinner reservation or a doctor’s appointment — may be more convenient than using traditional scheduling methods. For medical visits specifically, booking online can be a major time saver. According to research from Accenture, scheduling appointments over the phone takes more than eight minutes, and these calls are transferred 63% of the time. On the flip side, scheduling an appointment online may take under a minute. 

3. Streamlined patient experience

From the options below, which patient would you say had a better experience? 

  • Patient A, who takes time out of their busy day to spend more than eight minutes on the phone, being transferred or put on hold before getting an appointment scheduled, or; 
  • Patient B, who spends less than one minute at the time of their choosing to book their next doctor’s appointment online? 

The answer may seem obvious: Patient B.

How patients schedule appointments may set the tone for the rest of their experience with you and your practice. Rather than coming into an appointment feeling frustrated or just plain indifferent, they may feel a sense of trust and appreciation for your staff’s customer service. Remember that the patient journey starts before a patient enters the office and continues after their visit, so it is important to consider each step of the healthcare experience and ways you can streamline it.

What are the benefits of self-scheduling for providers?

How a patient interacts with your practice when they schedule an appointment may be, in many cases, their first impression of you. By making this step simple and convenient for them, you may not only create a better patient experience but may also reap a host of potential benefits for your practice. Here are six of them:

1. Lower inbound call volume

Medical practices have long cited administrative burdens as a top challenge. Such burdens can include everything from paperwork and EHR updates to insurance collection, coding and billing, to making and fielding calls. There are many reasons call volume at a practice may be high, including patients calling for test results, medication refills, appointment scheduling and other questions. The truth is, many of these requests may not need to be phone calls at all — especially with digital tools that offer additional communication channels.

If you offer patients a self-scheduling option, you may cut down on some of these inbound calls and potentially reduce the number of voicemails to triage and respond to. 

2. Reduce no-shows

Some digital scheduling tools have an automated reminder feature, allowing you to remind patients of their appointments without needing to pick up the phone to call them. Instead, an automated and personalized message can be sent to the patient via email or text with details about their upcoming appointment and instructions on how to confirm, cancel, or reschedule. 

This method may lead to fewer no-shows. For example, studies have shown that:

3. Book more appointments

Practices that only offer traditional scheduling options may lose patients who prefer not to make a phone call to schedule their appointments. If you offer self-scheduling, you may be able to book more appointments. Here are some potential reasons why:

  • Online booking may be more popular: Healthgrades reports that practices with an online scheduling option scheduled 24% more appointments than those that only book by phone. 
  • After-hours booking is preferred by many: The Mayo Clinic study found that nearly 30% of self-scheduled appointments were made after hours, when patients would not have been able to schedule an appointment with office staff by phone. 
  • Many new patients look online first: According to one study, 54% of appointments booked online are from new patients. 

4. Reduce scheduling errors

Errors are bound to happen when appointment scheduling is done manually by your staff. For example, someone might accidentally double-book an appointment or incorrectly record certain patient information. Or there could be a miscommunication between a staff member and a patient about the date and time of an appointment. With online self-scheduling, many of these issues may be avoided.

With self-schedulers, appointment bookings are completed digitally and added to your practice’s calendar automatically. Your systems will capture the personal information and appointment time in real time with the information the patient has submitted.

5. Higher patient engagement and patient satisfaction

As mentioned in the previous section, patients may have a better first impression and overall experience with your practice if they have control over their appointment scheduling. Consequently, the patient may be more likely to refer their friends and family to your practice or leave positive online reviews.

6. Improve efficiency

As your practice grows, your staff may have to spend even more time scheduling appointments and sending reminder calls. 

As previously mentioned, scheduling phone calls can take more than eight minutes — time that’s not only taken from patients but also from your staff. Assuming doctors see an average of 20 patients per day, that means your staff could be spending approximately 160 minutes scheduling each day’s patients. And this, of course, does not include time spent calling to remind patients about their appointment or playing back-and-forth phone tag.

With online self-scheduling, you may be able to automate appointment scheduling and have more time to focus on patients.

Is a patient portal scheduler enough?

If you use an EHR or PM system with a patient portal, you may already have some version of online scheduling. That said, in many cases, only existing patients will have access to it. New patients may still have to call your office to make an appointment. As mentioned, new patients may be more likely to seek out practices that offer online scheduling. For this reason, it may make sense to explore an online scheduling option that’s available to all patients, existing and new.

Self-scheduling made easy with Klara

Klara’s conversational patient engagement platform is dedicated to helping medical providers run their practices more effectively and efficiently. Our powerful solutions include patient communication, provider collaboration, workflow automation, telehealth and more. The platform helps enable practices to focus on what’s most important: providing the best patient experience and overall patient care.

With Klara's patient scheduling functionality, practices can enable patients to book appointments digitally based on parameters set for appointment type, provider, location and more. In addition, some practices may prefer to use Klara's messaging capabilities to book appointments. In addition, all patient outreach (including scheduling information) will be consolidated within the Klara platform, helping your practice to improve overall patient communication and staff efficiency. 

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice. Please consult with your legal counsel and other qualified advisors to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations and standards.

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Katherine Blankman, Senior Content Marketing Manager, Klara

Katherine has worked in marketing and communications for ten years at various technology companies in the hospitality, marketing and healthcare industries.

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