Online Appointment Booking: A Quick Guide to Choosing a Solution

Online Appointment Booking ChecklistOver the past 18 months, demand for digital tools to support virtual and in-clinic patient care has exploded.  Among these tools,  online appointment booking has proven to bring significant benefits to clinics, with fewer phone calls to answer, not as many frustrated patients, and improved office efficiency.

This is great news for patients. Having the option to book doctor’s appointments and other healthcare services online can save time, while improving the consistency and quality of care by reducing the likelihood that patients will seek care from a virtual walk-in.

As clinics become aware of these benefits, many are starting to consider offering online booking to their patients. The recent release of Ontario’s Online Appointment Booking Service Standard and funding for Ontario Health Teams (OHTs) has brought even more attention to this issue. However, making a decision about what technology is right for your clinic – and patients – can be overwhelming. With that in mind, we have developed a quick checklist of items to consider when choosing a solution.

Usability

The best online booking solutions are easy for both patients and clinic staff.

  • Does the solution integrate directly with your clinic’s EMR without requiring staff to manage and update a second schedule/template?
  • Does the solution update in near real-time to provide current availability to patients and update the EMR schedule when bookings are complete?
  • Is it easy for patients and/or caregivers to select an appointment for a specific day and time?
  • Can clinics easily allow patients the choice between virtual/phone-based appointments and in-clinic appointments?
  • Does the solution allow staff to easily review appointments booked online to check for inappropriate bookings if needed?
  • Does the solution allow patients to book without logins or passwords, which can simplify the process and improve adoption?
Configuring Booking Rules

With the right booking rules in place, clinics can help ensure that bookings are booked appropriately.

  • Does the solution allow you to restrict bookings by age and/or frequency of bookings?
  • Can you easily define appointment types and duration to automatically book the appropriate length of visit?
  • Does the solution automatically reflect changes to the schedule made in the EMR (eg. flu shot clinics, provider vacation schedule)?
  • Does the solution allow you to limit bookings to registered patients?
  • Does the solution allow the option for unregistered/walk-in patients to book online?
  • Can you customize the online booking experience to screen for certain requirements, or collect patient information at booking?
  • Can you prevent inappropriate bookings based on a patient’s response to screening questions?
  • Can the online booking flow optionally collect consent and update the patient’s chart accordingly (eg. consent to receive email/text reminders)?
Patient Notifications

Automated notifications can improve the patient experience and eliminate the need for staff to call to remind patients while reducing no-shows.

  • Do patients have an option to receive a confirmation of successfully booked appointments?
  • Does the solution include options for customizable appointment reminders that can include appointment-specific instructions?
  • Can patients easily cancel and re-book their appointment from the appointment confirmation email?
  • Does the solution allow your clinic to easily contact patients after any appointment (booked by phone or online) to inform them about how to access online booking and optionally survey them about their experience(s) with online booking?

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