Patient Booking Gateway - easier to use for clients

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Hi.  Currently the parameters for the patient booking gateway are set by Smartsoft (eg. the number of appointments that are shown - currently 3, and 3 revisions can occur before the client is locked out. I understand that this is to prevent "data mining" by competitors but i feel that it is way too restrictive for clients.  Personally i would prefer if a lot more appointment options were provided - although i understand some clinics may not want this, hence the control for this should be given to clinics.

It is great that smartsoft has worked on making the patient experience more user friendly in recent upgrades but i feel that to encourage more active use by patients it has to be easier and more convenient than calling which is currently not the case - the less clicks the better.

With some online booking systems ( single location) you can see all available appointments in 2 clicks, with our patient booking gateway it takes 9 clicks to be able to see 3 appointments and if these do not suit you have to go back and try again.
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Posted 3 years ago

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Dean Hartley

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Hello
I completely agree with this post. I actually had this exact discussion with Tim at the end of last week. If you look at 3rd party plug-ins such as Health Engine, it is extremely easy to use with patients able to see what is available immediately.

I understand the initial approach with data mining being an issue, but I believe it should be at the owners discretion on what they want to display. In my opinion, the current system functions poorly from a consumer/patient perspective as it is simply to clunky.

I do hope the powers at be do not take this the wrong way, rather can see the need for urgent change in the current system to stay ahead of the game.

Kind regards,
Dean
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Josie Tropeano, Product Manager

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The "data mining" is generally not by competitors but by your patients, prying to see how busy you are.

Reception staff don't offer 9:00, 9:15, 9:30, 9:45. 10:00, 10:30 etc or "any time this morning" to patients over the phone.  Our experience is that practitioners are protective to publically show how busy they are, and so they should be.  Online appointment books that show whole days at a time, with all appointments taken and available are simply unprofessional in our option.

Other online booking systems we have reviewed, just ask you to type in a name with no registration process to validate the client or to link you to an actual patient card. They are certainly easy to use when make a booking. Reception staff then have to try to work out which "John Smith" they are dealing with, if  "John Smith" was actually a valid appointment and not a troll having fun with you.

It's a fine line between usability, privacy and data integrity. 

With some of our best Patient Booking Gateway (PBG) implementers taking 400+ bookings online a month, we have some level of confidence in our product. The best implementers educate their patient's on making appointments online and drive traffic to their websites to build their practice brand. If you drive traffic to Health Engine you are building their brand.  When a patient cant get in to see you, they will then just book with another practice (your competitor).

Due to the PBG being strongly rule based, together with it's privacy considerations, its the next best thing to a good receptionist, and probably better because it's available 24/7.

Further, you are not simply locked out if you request to view too many appointments (the actual number can be set by the practice), you are informed that someone from the practice will contact you to help you make an appointment.
(Edited)
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Dean Hartley

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Hi Josie.

Thank you for your reply.

I believe where the PBG falls down is encouraging new patients to book in. I can see how this system could be implemented well into practices where the reception staff are able to educate their patients to use the PBG, and the users are already current patients. I can see from your angle is was built to replicate a '24/7 receptionist'. However getting new patients to use the system is a different proposition where there first interaction with our business is on a webpage and online booking form.

From my experience using both the PBG system and Health Engine extensively, the data shows me patients are significantly more likely to use the Health Engine plugin (hosted on our website) for new bookings over the PBG. To clear this up, people are still booking directly on our site, but through the Health Engine plugin. They are not booking directly on the Health Engine website. I would much rather be not paying Health Engine for their services, but currently their booking system is providing a much better return for us since we have implemented it alongside the PBG. Also I can tell you that we have yet to have one patient 'no-show' since its inception and validity of patient bookings has not been an issue.

There are other ways around showing potential patients all appointment times available for that day. EG have a rule to only display a maximum number of available appointments for the day . This way the individual practice can choose how visible they want their appointment book to be.

To me it simply comes back to user experience and usability. Additionally I think it should be at the owner's discretion of how 'visible' and 'professional' they come across.

Do not take these points of being to critical, it is simply my view. I have been using Front Desk in our practices for our 12 years and very happy with it. I simply want to share my opinion about the PBG and how I believe the system needs to improve.

Kindest regards,
Dean
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Josie Tropeano, Product Manager

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Hi Dean

Thank you for your comments. However, we are talking about products with different aims.

Health Engine (and others like First Available) are marketing tools with the aim to get new patients with an ok online booking system.  Our PBG is aimed at being an excellent online booking system that does the thinking of your receptionist, and is tightly linked to Front Desk.

Our feed back is that marketing tools like Health Engine may or may not provided users a payback in their investment, depending on profession, physical location of your practice and other competitors in your area also using the system. They spend lots of time on search engine optimisation to get potential new clients to their site. I stand by my comment that this builds their brand and not yours, and potential clients will see a competitor if they cant get in with you when booking from the marketers site. Further, our feedback is that there is a significant drop out at renewal times as it doesn't work for all users. Our drop out rate after the first year of use or later for the PBG, over the past 2 years is < 2%.

If you are seeing more new bookings via Health Engine, it's because its coming from their website and not yours. Particularly, in guest mode, we don't see PBG users loosing new patient bookings once someone is at your website and wanting to make an online booking. Some professions like our Psychologist, tend not to use guest mode as they wish to pre-qualify patients before their first appointment.

<<Additionally I think it should be at the owner's discretion of how 'visible' and 'professional' they come across.>>

At times we need to be the gatekeepers for some of this stuff, as we only wish to encourage best practice. Apple doesn't allow users to upload their own programs on their Iphones/Ipads, not to frustrate users, but to ensure all programs meet a minimum standard and are safe.

We are however, always happy to listen to the feedback, which we do take into consideration.
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