By: John Zimmerer, VP of Healthcare Marketing at Smart Communications
While the healthcare industry is known for keeping one foot in the past where systems and workflows are concerned, many healthcare providers have begun the process of digitizing processes to enhance the patient experience. This often starts by considering the current way they’re interacting with patients and identifying ways to reimagine the end-to-end patient experience.
In addition to increasingly high patient expectations, this change is also being driven by payment stipulations. Payment often depends on the level of patient satisfaction, especially as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) implement “value-based” programs that reward health care providers with incentive payments for the quality of care they give to people with Medicare.
So, as healthcare providers are consistently looking for ways to improve the patient experience, one way to make a quick improvement is to focus on the ways a patient schedules an appointment, which is why a digital-first, no-code patient appointment system should be one of the top priorities for healthcare providers right now. Not only can it enhance the inner workings of a practice, a sophisticated, modern solution can quickly and significantly enhance the overall patient experience. It can also help with:
- Allowing patients to book appointments on their own, without being bound to a provider’s office hours
- Automatically sending appointment reminders
- Patient flow tracking and reporting, as well as billing integration
- Improving key areas of the patient experience like intake, care management or discharge
In this post, we’ll look at the available options and provide tips on how to choose the best patient appointment system for a single practice or an entire system.
Available Patient Appointment Systems on the Market
Below are the most widely used patient appointment systems. We outline the pros and cons of each, and detail why a no-code approach is the best long-term strategy for healthcare providers.
Scheduling modules included with EHR/EMR systems
Athenahealth, Cerner, Epic and other systems offer patient scheduling modules. Resources such as EHR in Practice do a good job of comparing these systems. While each has its strong points, the biggest challenge is that the modules all look and operate differently. In some cases, the modules work differently on a desktop than on a mobile device.
Consistency is an important aspect of a great patient experience. For providers that have two or more EHR/EMR systems, the appointment setting experience will be different with each; thus, lacking the consistent experience needed. This means it isn’t a user-friendly approach for the practice nor the patient. A truly responsive patient appointment system should look and operate the same across any platform.
Dedicated patient appointment systems
There are several options when it comes to choosing a dedicated scheduling system—resources like Captera and SelectHub can provide insights into each. The biggest benefit of using a dedicated system is that the experience will be consistent across providers and practitioners, as these systems integrate with the major EHR/EMR systems. The largest limitation is that most of these systems only solve for scheduling and cannot be used to address other forms-based use cases such as intake, care management or discharge. That means that at least one other system will need to be procured, defeating the goal of simplifying the technology architecture. It also means more of an IT and financial investment will be necessary to implement, deploy and maintain the system.
Open-source patient appointment projects
There’s a plethora of PHP- and Java-based open-source scheduling projects available. Providers with a large enough IT staff may be tempted to implement one of these options. But, there are two pitfalls with going this route. First, it may be difficult to overcome privacy and compliance concerns raised by InfoSec, Legal and Compliance departments. Second, these projects instantly become maintenance burdens. In addition to testing new releases, IT staff will need to regularly redeploy and reintegrate these packages, making what may have started out as ‘freeware’ turn into costly projects that are difficult to budget for in the future.
As each one of these options has significant drawbacks and limitations, none qualify as the best patient appointment system. Luckily, there’s another solution that leverages no-code technology in order to offer flexibility and ease of use.
No-Code Patient Appointment System Enhances the Healthcare Patient Experience
A low-code/no-code solution like SmartIQTM offers the most benefits to healthcare providers when it comes to appointment scheduling – and all of the patient interactions thereafter. Leading healthcare providers like Sonic agree as they partnered with Smart Communications to develop their appointment-setting solution to schedule COVID-19 immunizations.
While our patient appointment system solves many challenges for healthcare providers, some of the main benefits include:
- No coding required. Response-based forms require zero coding for most use cases, and low-code support for more complex use cases. Business users—not IT—are able to quickly develop and deploy solutions.
- Integration with patient portals and EHR/EMR systems. SmartIQ uses RESTful services for direct integrations and is available on the MuleSoft Anypoint Exchange, providing integration with leading EHR, EMR and other systems.
- Always available on any device. Responsive healthcare communications software allows patients to self-serve, making appointments anywhere, at any time, on any device. Patients can even start on one device and finish on another without losing their place in line or any information they’ve already entered.
- Can be used to address other use cases. Low-code forms solutions like SmartIQ are flexible and can be used for more than just appointment setting. Providers have used our solutions to streamline health assessments, care visits and other processes.
An automated, low-code forms management solution is ideal for providers looking to simplify their technology stack and standardize a single platform that is flexible, easy to implement, integrate and simple for patients to use. For the patient, this removes the burden of filling out endless paperwork. On the business side, it allows staff in the contact centers to focus on assisting patients with other things that may increase trust and patient satisfaction—two necessary factors in creating patient trust and comfort.
Smart Communications has helped providers that rely on its ISO-certified and HIPAA-compliant Conversation Cloud platform to provide appointment setting solutions and solve for other form-based use cases. We’ve helped to increase their efficiency as much as 80% and meaningfully improve NPS and other customer experience metrics.