By Monica Demers, Director of Market Development, Lumeon

The coronavirus has forced some major changes in the US healthcare system, one of the most prominent and profound of which is patients’ increased expectation that providers will use technology to facilitate care.

As patients, we’ve become accustomed to completing intake forms online, signing in for Zoom appointments, and dealing with digital billing. At long last, at least in this way, we have come to expect the healthcare industry to function more like other industries — using digital tools wherever possible to increase choice, accessibility, and ease-of-use.

One major area where that expectation shows up is in patients’ interest in using digital tools to schedule our own appointments. A 2017 study by Stax Inc. found that 80% of patients prefer to visit doctors who have online scheduling capabilities — and this was even before the pandemic made these options more mainstream. In fact, it’s very common for patients to specifically seek out providers with whom they can self-schedule using digital tools.

It’s no surprise, then, that many providers are adopting self-scheduling, both out of necessity and in response to customer preference. But it’s worth noting that relatively few are considering how these tools can be automated as part of a larger care orchestration system that guides patients through their unique care journey.

Automated self-scheduling makes life easier

As a patient, you know that nailing down a time for an appointment is only one element of the much more complex, multi-step process that constitutes your ongoing healthcare.

What if you could not only self-schedule appointments, but receive automated reminders when it’s time to do so and then schedule with a simple text message? What if your provider were to automatically prompt you to schedule an appointment after you’ve been discharged post-surgery, received the results of a screening, or when you are due for labs prior to a routine check-up?

Here are three scenarios that show in detail how integrated and automated self-scheduling capabilities can make our lives as patients so much easier.

Rescheduling an appointment

You’ve got an appointment with your primary care doctor on Friday, but on Monday you realize it’s at the same time as your daughter’s recital. You respond to your original confirmation text and immediately get a response listing four new times you could come in. You reply “4” to choose the fourth option and go about your day. The next week you receive a reminder the day before your appointment, but the next day is so hectic you miss it. You then receive a missed appointment message offering to reschedule it.

You’re happy with this process because it’s easy and painless and allows you to reach your goal, which is seeing your doctor (eventually). The provider likes it because they’d rather have you come in later than not at all. Being able to automatically reschedule even a small percentage of no-shows can allow providers to recoup significant lost revenue.

Receiving invitations to see the doctor or schedule tests

One morning you receive a reminder message: “Time to draw blood for diabetes monitoring.” You had forgotten and would have sailed right past the date if your doctor hadn’t reminded you. Now you can self-schedule directly from the reminder message and get into the lab the next day.

This type of automation is possible because your provider is using a system that connects with their EHR, drawing data from your medical record to analyze what actions must take place. The system will locate your diagnoses and work out when you should be automatically reminded to come in for annual appointments, HbA1c blood draws, and follow-ups.

Knowing how to follow-up on your care

You leave an appointment having been diagnosed with high blood pressure/hypertension. Your doctor has ordered a certain medication and explained what it should do. But you were only half-listening because you were in shock about your new health status. What was the medication’s name, again? You don’t even remember when you’re supposed to return for a follow-up.

As you arrive back home, you get phone alerts with text messages from the provider. One message provides links to trusted sources of information about your new condition and the medication you have been prescribed. The next states that you need a follow-up appointment in two weeks and suggests four dates. You book your follow-up with a return text. You feel less anxious now that your provider is taking the lead on your care.

A “care journey” approach to self-scheduling

The value of automated self-scheduling multiplies when providers place it in the context of orchestrating a larger virtual care journey. Self-scheduling is integral to letting patients maintain control over the specific timing of their care, while the care journey ensures the patient is on the right path.  The care journey navigates and directs patients’ behaviors across engagement, care coordination, and clinical intelligence, tailoring care based on the specialty, progress, health risks, compliance, and clinical context.

In this way, self-scheduling and care journey orchestration make healthcare providers and patients into partners. As a result, patients are happier and less anxious, providers recoup staff time and gain revenue, and outcomes improve.

Find out how you and your patients can reap the benefits with Lumeon Patient Self-Scheduling.