Online Self-Scheduling: Frequently Asked Questions

We are fortunate to work with some of the nation’s largest hospitals, health systems, and clinics in their efforts to improve patient experience and access to care. We’ve learned a lot from these customers; knowledge which has helped us refine and develop our solution over the years. We’ve also noticed over this time, though, that our customers often have the same questions when learning about online self-scheduling and how it can specifically help their organization. Here are the most frequently asked questions we’ve encountered that we feel are worth sharing.

We have “request an appointment” on our website, isn’t that the same thing as online self-scheduling?

This is a common misconception. Online scheduling is more effective than the well-known “request an appointment” feature because it gives patients the opportunity to actually schedule an appointment with their healthcare provider in real-time via any device, any time of day or night. No need for patients to call to schedule an appointment or wait to be contacted by the provider’s office to complete the booking process, which is how “request an appointment” features work. With online self-scheduling, patients have a real-time view into a provider’s schedule, can choose the day or time option that works best for them, and immediately book that appointment on the spot. 

How does online self-scheduling work?

To enable online patient self-scheduling, organizations need a platform that converts a practice’s scheduling rules into an experience that guides consumers to the right

provider and appointment while maintaining the provider’s control over their calendar. This is made possible with decision support and sophisticated business rules.

Automating decision making criteria ensures best practices are maintained, regardless if the appointment is booked online or in person. To digitize a provider’s scheduling rules, the result must codify the referral coordinator’s workflow, support different scheduling scenarios, and incorporate appointment specific pre-registration information. It makes it easy for patients to communicate why they need to see a doctor and then they can be routed to the right provider and/or appointment.

Providers already have scheduling logic which determines which appointments can be filled by patient type. They need a way to automate the scheduler’s interview process before enabling patients to book online. To allocate the right mix, providers establish rules for which types of patients are seen at which times. When scheduling protocols are digitized, you don’t have to worry that a patient may book the wrong appointment or that staff may forget a specific scenario. Patients only see what you, the provider, allow. To learn more about business rules and decision support download our free guide: Business Rules Empower Online Scheduling.

Does online self-scheduling contribute to provider burnout?

Contrary to popular belief, online self-scheduling does not contribute to provider burnout or burden—in fact, it does the opposite. Providers have even more control over their calendars with online self-scheduling. While their calendars are open to the public, they have the opportunity to pick and choose which days and times are visible. They may choose to only take new patients for two hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in which case only those day and time slots would be visible to patients when booking. Providers find that their schedules are more thoughtfully planned out and are more predictable over time.

Does self-scheduling work for specialties?  

Yes, but not every vendor has the capability to do so. Our self-scheduling solution is thoughtfully designed to work for both primary care and specialties. The decision support and business rules that guide patients to the right care in our solution can be customized to meet the needs of any specialty. Our solutions have been successfully deployed by specialists across the country, including stand-alone specialists like orthopedic groups and cancer care centers, and specialists employed by hospitals, health systems, and other provider groups and clinics.

Can my EMR facilitate self-scheduling?

Some EMRs can facilitate self-scheduling, but many are still unable to do so. Those that do offer self-scheduling are often only able to schedule into primary care physicians, not specialists. This is primarily due to the fact that they lack the sophisticated business rules and decision support algorithms that we have to manage the more complex scheduling scenarios.

How can I make a self-scheduling solution work with my EMR?

What we’ve learned through the years as we’ve integrated with numerous EMR and PM systems is that integrations are tough. Our team has always risen to the challenge and we have forged close relationships as preferred partners with several EMR vendors as a result of our work together. The bottom line is this: if an EMR has an API or HL7 interface, then we can integrate with it for real-time scheduling. The best answer to this question is that we will partner with you to make self-scheduling work with your EMR, bringing our team of integration experts to make it a success.

How can I get patients to use online self-scheduling?

Given that most patients are already looking for this capability, it shouldn’t be hard to get them on board. That said, there are several ways to market the new offering and get patients to use it. We’ve seen customers market and advertise the solution in a number of ways, including in-office advertising, online display ads, via their social media channels, and by email and direct mail. Our experienced account management team prides itself on providing a consultative service to our customers—which means they’ll bring all the knowledge of what does and does not work to help you successfully launch this consumer-focused solution in the marketplace.

If you have additional questions, we invite you to schedule a demo to learn more and see how it works. Or for more information you can watch a video testimonial, download a medical group case study or health system case study, or download our free guide: Redefining Patient Access.