Study: Scheduling Issues Cause 61% of Patients to Skip Medical Care - MedCity News

About 61% of patients have missed seeing a doctor in the past year due to challenges scheduling appointments, a new research shows.

The study comes from Notable, a healthcare automation company. Carl Falk, head of research for Notable, presented the findings Monday at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas. The company received responses from 1,005 patients in March. All respondents were at least 18 years old, and almost 74% had received medical care in the past year.

Notable’s research found that while providers are investing in tools, more needs to be done. About 63% of patients report that their provider’s digital tools don’t meet expectations, and 70% say they’ve tried online scheduling but been redirected to a phone call in the past year. Another 30% do not use digital services at all.

“Providers have invested in a lot of digital tools, but they’re really not meeting patient expectations,” Falk said. “Patients are not getting what they want.”

Due to poor digital experiences, 41% of patients switched providers, the survey also found.

When patients were able to make an appointment, they said the clinician was facing a computer screen 41% of the time they were there. This comes after they also had to wait to see a clinician, the study found. On average, patients spend 28.8 minutes waiting for an appointment, but only 16.7 minutes for a doctor.

Falk herself struggles with scheduling appointments, she said.

“In my case, I’m 24 months overdue for a mammogram. Why? Because I can’t go online and schedule it digitally,” she said. “It’s too hard to pick up the phone and call… If I had a choice, I would honestly go elsewhere. I have no choice. I’m in a rural market where I generally have one place to get a mammogram, so I’m stuck.”

The survey shows that consumers want and use digital tools. About 75% of patients said they preferred to fill out admission paperwork online. Another 52% say they already use digital services to book appointments, fill out forms or pay. Additionally, 67% have used a website, portal, or app to schedule or obtain medical information. Some 72% said they were “hopeful” the technology could improve their patients’ experience.

“Patients are optimistic,” Falk said. “They want to use technology. They see what they can do in other industries, whether it’s investing, banking or travel. They are used to using their smartphone.

These respondents provided information about what they wanted: online bookings and check-in before appointments. “Technology could help better automate my appointment scheduling and simplify the check-in process and therefore potentially reduce the time I wait to see the doctor,” said one patient in the study.

“Get all that nonsense out of the way and the actual visit will be direct, faster and you’ll spend less time on the appointment,” said another.

Suppliers can also help by facilitating payment options and tracking digitally. “They should follow up via text or email to follow up on how I’m doing, it would be best online instead of using the phone or more visits,” said a respondent.

Falk cautioned suppliers who do not implement these recommendations.

“Those health systems that fail to move quickly here will lose out,” she said. “They’re going to lose out on primary care visits, they’re going to lose out on specialist visits, they’re going to lose out on diagnostic services to providers out there who have figured out this digital experience on the front end of healthcare.”

Photo: bymuratdeniz, Getty Images

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