Now more than ever, patients expect and covet convenience from their healthcare providers, alongside quality of care and privacy. This is especially true among younger patients, who have become accustomed to on-demand access to all kinds of goods and services, thanks to web platforms ranging from Amazon.com to Open Table. In fact, patients under 40 are almost 50 percent more likely to not even have an ongoing relationship with a primary-care physician, relying almost exclusively on walk-in clinics and other nontraditional modes of primary-care delivery.
Is the focus on convenience good for patients? That depends on many factors. But the phenomenon is here to stay. And many hospitals and practices are coming to understand that inconvenient scheduling is increasingly a competitive challenge. Yet what many don’t realize is that it is also a factor in whether your existing patients will even show up for their scheduled appointments. Truth be told, I have no-showed at my own doctor’s office more than once. A simple phone call would have been nice, and I am not proud of being so inconsiderate. My experience and a little data tells me that I am not alone. One survey of patients who skipped their appointments at a large genetics practice, for example, found that “too busy” and “forgot” were the two most-common reasons given. And the longer patients have to wait for an appointment, the more likely they are to miss it.
Why is convenience rising in importance for patients? And what can you do to make your practice more accessible?
Walk-in clinics are becoming more common
They’re springing up everywhere: retail clinics associated inside big box stores and in freestanding pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens. And there are more to come: big retail pharmacies are investing more heavily in their retail clinic business, spurred by lessening profitability in the sale of medications, which means your competition for patients could be increasing. Indeed, CVS projects operating 1,500 clinic outlets by 2017.
Adding to the allure of visiting a retail clinic is the fact that many publish their prices for certain services outright on their websites — Target lists “convenient same-day care” by a nurse practitioner or physicians’ assistant for “treatment for minor illnesses” at between $79–$89.
And even though these clinics don’t claim to replace primary-care providers, the fact is that many patients simply find them more convenient for minor day-to-day issues, especially if they can’t get in to see you on short notice.
Americans feel more rushed than ever
With Gallup reporting that employed Americans adults work, on average, nearly six days a week, it should come as no surprise that we feel more rushed than ever before.
In fact, American moms, who make most healthcare decisions for their families, report having just 36 minutes of free time per day. With time this strapped across the board among parents and non-parents, full-time and part-time workers, it’s easy to understand why the need for convenience in all things, healthcare included, has risen in recent years.
So, knowing that patients want convenience, particularly as the out-of-pocket cost of healthcare continues to go up and people are feeling more and more rushed, what can you do to make your practice more convenient?
- Put the power to book and reschedule appointments in patients’ hands. Self-scheduling is set to explode in the coming years. As many as 64 percent of patients will book appointments digitally by the end of 2019. Offering the ability to use a smartphone or tablet to jump in line to see the doctor — and to be notified immediately when an appointment is available — will help patients feel more in control, and that care is more accessible.
- Keep track of repeat no-shows. These patients are inflating the wait time to see the doctor for everyone else. Track who often doesn’t show up or cancels at the last minute, and consider charging them (us!) for missed appointments or deploying a software solution like Smart Scheduling, for example.
- Dedicate an hour of the schedule each day to walk-ins. By quarantining time in the regular schedule each day or week and advertising this time to patients as open for walk-ins, you let patients know that they have an option outside of visiting the ER or a retail clinic.
Now, more than ever, convenience is important to Americans in seeking health care. Coupled with accessibility of the doctor, digital services, and good communication, ease of getting an appointment is becoming more and more important to patients. Convenience may not be king all on its own but it has definitely taken a prominent seat at the table.
To learn more about putting the power to book appointments in your patients’ hands and making your practice more convenient, contact Everseat.