Introduction

Virtual doctor visit or traditional office appointment? Urgent care clinic or hospital emergency room? Internist or specialist? And does anyone actually have a Saturday appointment available this weekend?

As the maze of the healthcare system becomes even more complex, it’s consumers who find themselves stuck at dead ends. It takes a lot of guesswork for patients to navigate the healthcare system, says Amber Allen, service line director for Prevea, a multispecialty healthcare organization headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Sometimes, patients even delay care because it’s too complicated to determine what type of care they need and where to find it. But when healthcare organizations use smart digital tools to navigate patients – and potential patients – to the right healthcare setting and the right medical provider at the right time, everyone wins. Consumers who are accustomed to rapid, easy digital access in almost every other industry will be more satisfied when they can get the same access in healthcare.

And healthcare organizations that offer intelligent online access are more competitive. In fact, 77 percent of patients think the ability to book, change or cancel appointments online is important, according to a recent Accenture survey. The survey also predicts that, by the end of 2019, 64 percent of patients will book appointments using digital tools.

In disaster situations – when access to healthcare could mean the difference between life and death – advanced online scheduling benefits both patients and providers. Many of the millions of people pushed from their homes each year due to hurricanes, floods and other emergencies live with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, that require they have ongoing access to healthcare. When phone lines are down and information is scarce, broadening access through online scheduling could enable patients to quickly and easily find available healthcare providers. At the same time, online scheduling gives providers access to the real-time data they need to meet the needs of patients.

To be sure, any way that healthcare organizations can make the navigation process easier makes it more likely patients will access care, whether it’s to schedule an annual physical or complete a screening test, Allen says. “We want to be sure that patients are getting to the place where they need care as quickly as possible,” she says.

This report will help healthcare organizations identify the challenges consumers face as they navigate an increasingly complicated healthcare system — and to develop solutions that will guide patients through this matrix to access the care they need.

 

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