For many consumers, time-related milestones are a catalyst for making a doctor’s appointment. These can be demonstrated in thoughts like, “I’m turning 40, so I should get a check-up.” Or, “It’s been a year since I had my blood drawn. I should follow-up.”
No matter the motivation, consumers are increasingly adept at researching physicians and scheduling appointments online. Healthcare is catching up to industries such as retail, travel, and hospitality when it comes to the meeting the needs of consumers who seek out online reviews, map-based search, and the ability to comparison shop. However, the healthcare industry lags behind at the final step when a consumer is ready to make a decision and book an appointment.
These days, the internet is the first stop for consumers looking for information and 77% of online health inquiries start with online search.1 Nearly a million consumers a day come to Healthgrades to choose and connect with a physician. Searches can be filtered based on location, specialty, availability, reviews, as well as preferred gender or age.
Although it is getting easier to find a physician that meets specific criteria, it is not always easy to find a provider that allows you to schedule an appointment online. Only 40% of the top 100 hospitals and 10% of the remaining hospitals currently offer online self-scheduling.1
A recent study revealed just how important online appointment scheduling is to consumers:
- 80% of healthcare consumers prefer providers with online appointment scheduling.
- 67% would choose a provider if they offer online scheduling over a convenient location.
- 33% say online scheduling will increase the likelihood of making an appointment.
The gap between consumers’ expectations and the reality of the healthcare industry is also expressed by their frustration when calling to schedule an appointment. Having to call during business hours, long hold times, and calls that go unanswered are often reasons why health systems are missing out on opportunities to acquire new patients. Given that it costs health systems 5-10 times as much to acquire a new patient compared to retaining an existing patient2, providers should easily be able to understand the cost-benefit of having an online scheduling tool to draw in business.
The financial impact of a missed opportunity is substantial. Recent numbers from CMS.gov show that a 40-year-old man is worth a lifetime value of $260,000 to the doctor and health system if that relationship is maintained, with approximately $157,000 of that total going to the health system.
Physicians aren’t always aware of the path their patients took to arrive in their office. A CEO of a health system may not realize the opportunity cost of a consumer that chooses another provider. In order for health systems to lower their cost-per-acquisition, they need to be prepared to invest in tools that make it easy and pain-free for a consumer to find them and immediately follow through on booking an appointment.
With the majority of consumers turning to digital solutions to meet their healthcare needs, health systems must continue to invest in tools that can easily engage an audience and drive them to convert. The patient journey can be a long and complex one, but a well-executed set of digital tools that offer consumers the ability to instantly connect with providers is better for the health of all involved.