Health Tech

Survey: Scheduling Troubles Force 61% of Patients To Skip Medical Care

Because of bad digital experiences, 41% of patients have changed providers, the Notable survey discovered. The findings were presented at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas.

About 61% of patients skipped going to a physician in the last year due to challenges with scheduling appointments, a new survey shows.

The survey came from Notable, an automation company for healthcare. Carle Falk, head of research for Notable, presented the findings Monday at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas. The company received responses from 1,005 patients in March. All respondents were at least 18 years old and almost 74% had medical care in the last year.

Notable’s survey found that despite providers investing in tools, more needs to be done. About 63% of patients reported that their provider’s digital tools didn’t meet expectations, and 70% said they tried online scheduling but were redirected to a phone call in the last year. Another 30% aren’t using digital services at all.

“Providers have invested in a lot of digital tools, but they are really falling short of patient expectations,” Falk said. “Patients aren’t getting what they want.”

Because of bad digital experiences, 41% of patients have changed providers, the survey also found.

When patients are able to make an appointment, they said the clinician is facing a computer screen 41% of the time they’re there. This is after they had to wait to see a clinician, too, the survey found. On average, patients spend 28.8 minutes waiting for an appointment, but only 16.7 minutes with a doctor.

Falk herself has struggled with scheduling appointments, she said.

“Case in point for myself, I am 24 months overdue for a mammogram. Why? Because I can’t go online and schedule it digitally,” she said. “It’s just too much trouble to pick up the phone and call … If I had a choice, frankly, I’d go somewhere else. I don’t have a choice. I’m in a rural market where I’ve basically got one place I can get a mammogram, so I’m stuck.”

The survey shows that consumers want and are using digital tools. About 75% of patients said they’d rather complete intake paperwork online. Another 52% said they are already using digital services to book appointments, fill out forms or pay. Additionally, 67% have used a website, portal or app for scheduling or receiving medical information. About 72% said they are “hopeful” that technology can improve their patient experience.

“Patients are optimistic,” Falk said. “They want to use technology. They see what they can do in other industries, whether it’s investing, banking or travel. They’re used to using their smartphone.”

These respondents provided insights on what they want: online bookings and check-ins before appointments. “Technology could help to better automate the scheduling of my appointments and simplify the check in process and therefore potentially reduce the time I’m waiting to see the doctor,” one patient said in the survey.

“Get all that crap out of the way and the actual visit will be direct, quicker and spend less time at the appointment,” another said.

Providers can also help by making payment options easier and by following up digitally. “They need to follow up using text or email to track how I feel, it will be best online instead of using a phone or more visits,” a respondent said.

Falk gave a warning to providers who don’t implement these recommendations.

“Those health systems that fail to move quickly here are going to lose out,” she said. “They’re going to lose out on primary care visits, they’re going to lose out on specialty visits, they’re going to even lose out on diagnostic services to providers out there who have figured out this digital experience on the front end of healthcare.”

Photo: bymuratdeniz, Getty Images