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Dr. Ronald Barg

Meeting patient demand through online appointment scheduling

From the October 2016 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

By Dr. Ronald Barg

In order to improve patient access, it’s important to bridge the gap between patients and the optimal care provider through intelligent online appointment scheduling. This can be accomplished through accurate patient navigation, based on provider scheduling protocols that are specific to operational and clinical workflows, expanded and digitized access, and availability for the modern patient through websites that they use and trust and through the utilization of an analytics platform that enables deep insights for optimizing operational processes in real time, in order to better align the care delivery to patient demand.

A few years ago, Penn Medicine sought a way to better connect their physicians to the modern patient. In coordination with Clinical Care Associates, Penn Medicine’s employed primary and specialty care physician group, the health system saw the immediate need to improve patient access, attract new patients and increase patient retention.

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Penn Medicine made its EMR implementation and utilization a top priority by utilizing a scheduling module for existing patients. While this solution sufficed for existing patients through its portal, MyPennMedicine, DocASAP provided the organization with a tool to draw in new patients, reach patients from diverse digital pathways (health plans or health care content sites) and manage intake for specialists or ancillary services.

“We decided to pursue an add-on online appointment scheduling platform as a strategy aimed at welcoming new patients,” said Steven Bisha, director of operations at Penn Medicine’s Clinical Care Associates. “We knew there was an opportunity to further align our current processes with new technology.” Implementing the online appointment scheduling solution has allowed Penn Medicine to change some of the factors in how it attracts, engages and retains patients. With a multi-modal approach to booking an appointment, patients can search for a physician or location and book directly on Google, book from the Penn Medicine website or use the MyPennMedicine portal if they are existing patients.

In utilizing the big data analytics platform behind the online appointment scheduling system, the operations team at Penn Medicine is able to measure patient behavior (demand), such as patients’ reasons for seeking visits, and when they require appointments. They can then match these with physician availability (supply), such as where schedules are blocked and/or showing limited availability.
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