According to the Center for Disease Control, COVID-19 has affected 2,531,804 individuals worldwide. On the upside, 665,448 of those cases have recovered as of April 22, 2020. This unprecedented virus has turned our lives upside down, and wreaked havoc on the medical and healthcare communities.
With such a burden on the system, healthcare interests are looking for a way to journey through the chaos and get back to business, and consumers are looking for safe and effective ways to interact with their healthcare providers with minimal risk. There’s no silver bullet, but thinking about ways to work within this new environment point to implementing an appointment scheduling system.
An appointment scheduling system, or an appointment booking solution, offers a number of highly appealing capabilities including:
The ability to space out appointments in accordance with social distancing requirements and occupancy concerns
Enablement of built-in time to clean, sanitize, and disinfect between appointments
Remote connections via phone or video for a personal touch from a distance
Integration with existing systems for personalized service
The ability to survey patients for key pieces of information in advance of a meeting, an appointment, or consultation
Once you consider the capabilities, think about the potential applications that offer wide appeal for ensuring the safety of your patients and staff:
1. Powering testing
Appointment scheduling allows clinics, hospitals, and drugstores the ability to have customers sign up for a slot to drop in and get tested, without the risk of waiting in line. Similarly, some health systems are offering patients the ability to schedule a testing time, drive through to get tested keeping everyone at a distance, managing the patient flow, and reducing impact on the call center. CVS, Walmart, and other pharmacies have started similar practices and it takes the worry out of the experience.
2. Prescription consultations
I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do is queue with a bunch of sick people! Leveraging appointments allows you to pre-arrange a consult with your pharmacist in person or via video. You can also arrange to dial in your prescription and schedule pickup - either in-store or curbside, and check-in once in-store to ensure your pickup is ready.
3. Offer visitation for vulnerable populations
Relegate store or office hours for the elderly, the infirmed, or the vulnerable by making specific appointment slots available to them, and them alone. This allows drugstores, pharmacies, clinics, or medical practices to alleviate any unnecessary stress on a patient in need of medical attention. It also provides the ability to manage footfall into each location.
4. Facilitating remote appointments
According to Healthgrades, 85 percent of patients still schedule medical appointments over the phone, and of those, 60 percent are booked after hours. And each phone interaction takes an average of 8 minutes. Imagine offering patients the ability to book online, select phone, video, or in-person, and send a confirmation in just a few minutes. Joslin Diabetes has deployed a remote appointments solution, and they do a great job providing patients with a list of materials to have in advance of each call including prepared questions or requests for refills from the physician, any requirements from your insurer, and details on specific blood levels. It’s a tremendous time savings, and a huge boost in customer service.
5. Enable telehealth
With a shortage of PPE and a general wariness of the outside world, patients are open to new models of communications with their healthcare providers. As part of a larger move toward telehealth, appointment scheduling allows medical personnel to manage their day through an admin console leaving time for follow up, patient visits, emergencies and the like, while patients receive personalized service from a safe distance. An appointment booking journey, in this case, might include several qualifying questions to determine what level of care a patient might require based on symptoms, route that patient to the subject matter expert, and minimize risk to patient and provider.
TIP: As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow, more tactics will be introduced to streamline testing and care. Appointment scheduling - remote and in-person - will certainly be one key lever for healthcare providers to better serve their members, while keeping staff and patients safe.