Healthcare consumers used to have only one option to schedule an appointment – the telephone. Fortunately, the internet and healthcare’s focus on providing a more consumer-centric patient experience shifted scheduling access online. Now, 77% of consumers believe the ability to schedule, change, or cancel appointments online is important and the revenue potential for online scheduling is valued at $3.2 billion.
Online scheduling provides self-service access and convenience for patients and an alternative to picking up the phone, but what if there was a third option available? One that uses natural language processing to communicate, provides self-service access, and is sophisticated enough to understand intent and allow consumers the ability to take immediate action?
That’s precisely the type of online scheduling access that motivated Southcoast Health to become one of the first health systems in the country to implement onlundefinedine scheduling via Loyal’s chatbot platform, Guide. With the expansion of digital access through Guide, patients can initiate a conversation to schedule an appointment and complete the entire process without leaving the chatbot environment.
“Launching online scheduling with Loyal helps Southcoast Health continue to deliver a better consumer experience and achieve our goal of giving our patients more options to schedule online,” says Steve Canessa, VP of Marketing & Government Affairs at Southcoast Health.
Let’s explore why online scheduling via a chatbot platform offers consumers a better option to schedule online and its role in the overall journey to a more consumer-centric healthcare experience.
Whether it’s waiting on hold with a contact center or being redirected between multiple web pages, healthcare consumers are accustomed to the impediments of the scheduling process. This is unfortunate for both the consumer and the health system, considering 60% of consumers are not willing to wait on hold for customer service for more than one minute and 41% of consumers would stop going to their healthcare provider over a poor digital experience.
Southcoast Health’s chatbot scheduling centralizes the entire process in a single environment, with a workflow that provides a seamless scheduling experience.
After initiating the conversation, the chatbot guides the patient through the scheduling process with dialog responses and prompts requesting information like:
Patients then select a provider from a carousel of profiles and choose an available date and time.
Consumers can take immediate action to continue on their healthcare journey without redirect, waiting on hold, or picking up the phone.
When patients use site search to find where to schedule an appointment, the last thing they want to see are unrelated articles and zero results pertaining to the actual intent. Simple keyword searches don’t reflect how modern consumers communicate. After all, over 50% of search queries consist of 4 words or longer and healthcare consumers communicate with between 5-13 words.
In the modern era of search, where healthcare consumers communicate in a way that resembles how they would communicate with a real-life person, that means providing conversational AI solutions that can process and understand natural language queries. With online scheduling via a chatbot platform, Southcoast Health is providing the type accessibility that allows patients to communicate naturally and receive direct answers.
Contact centers understand the opportunity cost associated with spending too much time on a single call. It’s true that scheduling an appointment is revenue generating, but the time it takes to complete the process quickly adds up. On average, the time to schedule an appointment over the phone takes eight minutes, with 30% of that time spent on hold. Diverting even a small percentage of the overall call volume to schedule appointments towards the chatbot can translate to potentially huge resource savings.
Introducing additional access points for scheduling by expanding to the chatbot environment is another way Southcoast is supporting the overall effort to promote online appointment scheduling, reduce contact center volumes, and provide a modern digital patient experience. Without any promotion and only one month live on the site, Guide has already seen 2% of the overall scheduled appointments in its first month on the site.
Consumerism is the ability to engage and give people more self-service options and access. As Steve Canessa explains, “Expanding digital access for online scheduling via chatbot is a step forward in terms of innovating the online patient experience.” Self-service online scheduling won’t completely transform the healthcare consumer experience, but it is a critical component in a longer journey towards consumerism.