Improving Online Self-Scheduling with Analytics

Matt Kasle, Data Scientist, MyHealthDirect
OCTOBER 05, 2018
analytics healthcare,medical scheduling,digital appointment scheduling,hca news
Healthcare providers should use web analytics to improve patient self-scheduling platforms.

For many hospitals and health systems, online self-scheduling is a new frontier for patient access. We’ve seen that round-the-clock access to care offers many measurable benefits, including improved patient satisfaction, reduced appointment lead times, an increase in patient volume and improved efficiency over the traditional scheduling process. Despite these clear benefits, many providers are still hesitant to fully embrace the concept of giving patients digital access to their calendars.

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Provider networks often desire full control over a patient’s experience, and online scheduling can feel like a loosening of those reins and may seem like it leaves a lot up to chance. Will the patient be directed to the correct provider and appointment? Will they be prepared for the appointment? How can we measure a patient’s online experience? This is where guided search and web analytics come into play, empowering health systems with structured rule sets and actionable data to optimize a solution targeted to their needs and patient population. Simply opening calendars for the public to fill can have ramifications that will ripple across a provider group, causing more confusion and inefficiencies — which justify the fear that providers often have when it comes to self-scheduling.

That is why a data-driven approach is key for protecting providers calendars and scheduling rules while also improving user and patient experience. Web analytics can be used to analyze patient bounce rates at each step in the booking process. The overarching goal of this approach is often to drive conversion rate, or the percentage of patients who book out of all those who entered the scheduling process.

Here are three vital areas of focus for driving conversion rate and bookings.
 

Optimizing Guided Search

A guided search experience can be segmented into three distinct parts: a brief series of questions that determine scheduling eligibility, guiding patients to the correct provider; a presentation of available appointments; and a confirmation page.

Guided search provides healthcare networks access to vital clinical and financial patient data prior to a patient visit. For instance, a specialty clinic may need to know the patient’s condition and history of treatment or whether a patient has a pre-approved insurance. Knowing this, providers can leverage a customizable algorithm that allows them to structure a workflow and questions tailored to their needs. In this way, guided search is the key to making sure patients schedule appointments with the right provider and that providers can maintain control over their calendars. Additionally, web analytics gathered during the online booking process can be used to identify any pain points in this custom workflow.

To truly optimize guided search, bounce rates should be analyzed by page to determine the last questions a patient sees before abandoning the booking process. A page with a high bounce rate may indicate that patients are unable or unwilling to answer the questions or are confused by wording or context.

We’ve found several interesting trends in this regard. Patients are generally open to answering broad questions about their reason for visit and conditions. They also are comfortable offering their insurance provider but are less likely to provide an insurance ID or group number. Patients appreciate options but can be overwhelmed by too many. Limiting the number of options available within a question reduces bounce rate, as does reducing the total number of questions asked.
 

Matching Supply to Demand

Once a patient completes the guided search process, they are presented with calendar availability. As we know, accessing care is a two-way street; there must be patient initiative coupled with provider availability and a scheduling avenue. The abandonment rate when selecting a time slot can tell a lot about whether patients are seeing enough availability. Combining online abandon rates with provider availability metrics can illuminate whether access to care is a problem.  Flagging providers with a low availability online, yet a high demand from patients can provide health systems with the data they need to improve access to care and reduce lead times.
 

Tracking Marketing Campaigns

One reason that providers use 24/7 online scheduling is to help drive patient volume and increase market share in a given region. Web analytics can be used to track the number of visits per day over time, high volume days of the week and times of the day and first page bounce rates. Additionally, it can be used to track the effectiveness of outbound marketing campaigns, whether it be indirectly associated traffic from TV, radio or out-of-home marketing, or an email or text campaign with a link to book an appointment. One of our healthcare system partners saw a patient volume increase of more than 100 percent the day they sent an outbound email campaign, along with a strong lingering effect on patient volume over the next 30 days. We also found substantial bumps in web sessions and booked appointments following a television campaign. This can allow a healthcare system to calculate the return on investment for a given campaign.

Matt Kasle is a data scientist at MyHealthDirect, a provider of digital care coordination solutions.

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