One of the reasons putting bookings online has been difficult is because of the complexity of appointments. We think we can get that complexity out of the way of patients by giving them a bit more context about what appointments involve.
What’s second nature to professionals is new to patients
Every practice has a different combination of healthcare professionals. It could be any combination of GP’s, practice nurses, nurses, specialists, locums, or people on call. They all do different things – some, for instance, will do diabetic or asthma clinics, while others won’t – so if you want to book a service online a patient faces a common problem: who do I ask for, and for how long?
The professionals all know this. Often you’ll be given the right amount of context to share with a receptionist to make the next booking. But not always. You might need a diabetic clinic, but ask for a HbA1c. The former can take about 35 minutes, while the blood test may only take ten, so the difference to the schedule is actually significant.
Our thinking is that with the right amount of information within the digital service you’ll be able to book those online with more confidence.
Making it clear what you’re booking and why
A booking system that’s aware of your context will be able to tell you what kind of appointment you need to book next, and can be specific about who you’ll see, how long it’ll take and what the follow-up might be.
For instance, as a Type 2 Diabetic you should have a foot check once a year, and an HbA1c every 2 to 6 months. The system would explain what these are, would find you the block of time you needed for that service, and might prompt you to book repeat appointments ahead of time.
This is a new thing to do digitally. It’s also very hard. It comes up against the kind of challenges Joe talked about in his post, about the local differences in how surgeries schedule their hours, and about how supplier integration might work, but it’s definitely worth exploring.
We also know that some practices are concerned that putting more appointments online might make it harder for them to prioritise more urgent cases. Practices we spoke to said online appointments hadn’t caused hoarding of appointments, but we will continue to research this issue.
It’s things like this the alpha great at surfacing: ways of improving the experience for patients and professionals.