Allowing visitors to request an appointment online with an in-network doctor is an effective approach to gaining new customers. Allowing current patients to do so creates an intuitive retail-like and consumerized experience. A recent report from Corporate Insight’s Health System Monitor reviews 21 organizations offering public site and patient portal appointment scheduling capabilities.

We examined appointment scheduling capabilities through live user tests

To help establish best practices for the patient portal experience, we conducted user experience tests in our on-site lab in early August. We moderated 30-minute interviews in which respondents interacted with live versions of over 20 patient portals. While there is no uniform experience for public site visitors, there is for the patient portal experience, which is no surprise since most organizations use the same turn-key solutions.

Users have high expectations for appointment scheduling functionality

Providing direct scheduling capabilities for both public site visitors and current patients removes an often-cumbersome and time-consuming over-the-phone component. Respondents valued this highly in our comparative user tests. At a minimum, organizations in this report allow patients to send providers a form with availability preferences. Real-time appointment scheduling capabilities are less common.

NYU Langone appointment scheduling capabilities
NYU Langone Appointment Scheduling Tool – Provider Locator Results

Additionally, organizations should offer the ability to cancel and reschedule appointments as well as the ability to send pre-visit forms/questionnaires to expedite the check-in process at the doctor’s office. Both these features were important to user test respondents. Users state that notifications and reminders are effective in helping them keep track of upcoming appointments and tasks as well as in keeping them engaged with patient portals.

While primary care visit scheduling capabilities are most common, organizations should also allow online scheduling for virtual visits, specialty visits, mental health services and other less common but useful services. Best-in-class organizations offer urgent care waitlists and scheduling features which, if promoted well, can prevent ER visits.

Geisinger Health appointment scheduling capabilities
Geisinger Health Appointment Scheduling Tool – Express Care

Subscribers can read the full report on appointment scheduling capabilities on our client portal. For access, or for more competitive intelligence on the member experience that health systems provide to patients, check out Corporate Insight’s Health System Monitor research service offerings.