Last week, self-scheduling was in the spotlight as Ascension rolled out its campaign to build awareness around its convenient access feature.
Visit Ascension’s online scheduling feature and you’ll see the choices patients have to select their insurance (including self-pay), location, and care type. Need to see available times at an Ascension emergency room nearby? The program, in partnership with InQuicker, shows the next available time and the rest of the available times throughout the day.
Self-scheduling is not a new development in patient access or healthcare. HBI has spoken with providers who have operationalized it for certain specialties.
What is interesting is Ascension’s robust marketing campaign around it. One of the largest non-profit U.S. health systems recognizes that it is not enough to offer online scheduling. Patients need to know it is there for them. Making that connection requires a marketing investment big enough to make headlines.
Self-scheduling can offer convenience, online accessibility, and clarity. All of these are well-known tenets of a good patient experience. But not every self-service option, like self-scheduling, lends itself well to this.
Take, for instance, arrival kiosks. These pieces of hardware can run upwards of $12,000 per unit. We have heard providers say some patients can be grossed out by the notion of using the same machine other sick strangers have been touching all day. Others’ go-live projects require attendants to guide hesitant patients to the kiosk. Even when patients use it voluntarily, there’s always the possibility of getting kicked out by a system error. Unable to increase utilization to a level that yielded an ROI, one organization opted to sunset their kiosk program.
Palm-scanning, once in vogue, was nixed by two providers HBI spoke with. Issues with germs and data accuracy are possible theories why these technologies never took off. One provider (who still had palm-scanning in place when they spoke with HBI) pointed to the impact of patient perception: Patients who placed their hands on the scanner felt like they were being finger-printed by law enforcement.
Will online self-scheduling go the way of onsite hardware investments? Not likely. The ability to view information and plan accordingly from the privacy of the home is convenient. It helps providers plan their workflow, too. Technology with a long shelf-life is likely to meet patients where they are—not the other way around.
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