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New Poll: Patients Prefer Using Phone To Book Appointments

How do patients prefer to book an appointment with a provider?

As marketers and technologists helping health and medical practices grow, this is a question we ask ourselves often.

It’s also one of the questions we get asked the most by doctors, dentists and other health care professionals.

After all, with the proliferation of new ways to “book a doctor”, it’s pretty easy to feel a heavy dose of confusion and skepticism when it comes to, “what patients want.”

While our personal and professional experience has shown us that patients use a number of different methods to book an appointment with a provider, we wanted to gain a better perspective on how patients prefer to book a provider.

Enter Twitter, and their “Polls” feature.

How do you prefer to make an appointment with a #doctor or #physician?

Using the Twitter Polls functionality, we were able to ask this very question.

We ran our poll over the course of two days. We were able to get over 600 patients to answer the poll, giving us a nice dataset from which to better understand current patient behavior.

Here are the results:

Patient still prefer the phone for booking appointments

Despite the ability to take advantage of newer ways of booking an appointment with a provider, 65% of all patients polled still preferred to book an appointment via phone.

That’s right, the majority of patients prefer to call into the office to book an appointment.

For a team of folks developing a marketing platform for practices that includes online booking capabilities, these results were not surprising – we actually expected them.

That’s right.

We usually see a 5 or 6 to 1 ratio of patients booking via the phone to online, despite the fact that more and more patients are going online to find, evaluate and decide on a provider.

Why do patients still prefer to book an appointment via the phone?

To start, old habits die hard.

The phone has been around for decades and most caregivers / patients who are booking appointments tend to be a little older and thus a little less open to alternative means.

Second, scheduling a doctor is often a cat and mouse game.

For the most part, doctors are not normally available on the exact day and time you want. This means the most effective way to get a preferred date and time is to call in and, well, negotiate it.

Since booking a doctor is often difficult to begin with, patients know that picking up the phone is the fastest way to get resolve.

Third, privacy is still a concern.

Many patients are still not comfortable communicating via email or text message. Others still are uncomfortable putting their private health information into an online form that they probably think goes to some blackhole.

What can healthcare practices take away from this poll?

While the phone call is the dominate way patients make appointments today, this is likely to change over the next decade.

As younger generations, who are comfortable with online booking, email and text messages age, they will demand that health and medical clinics better support these methods of scheduling a provider.

This means smart practices are already beginning to implement these methods into their operation, such that as usage continues to increase, they’re already prepared.

Further, with the continued importance of phone calls, smart practices should be doing more to monitor phone calls and implement call tracking technology to better understand where their calls are coming from.

And while you don’t have to drop what you’re doing today to support online, email and text message booking, you should at least be well versed in the technology and tools available today to support patients who prefer these methods.

At the end of the day, you want all of the patients, not just 65% of them, right?

Garrett Smith

Garrett is the Founder, and Chief Marketer at InboundMD. Garrett has been successfully leading internet marketing campaigns for health care practices across the US for almost a decade. He's a frequent speaker at events, and author of "Book Now! Internet Marketing for Healthcare Practices", and the host of The Practice Marketing Podcast that details how successful practices are winning online.

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