The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

The pros and cons of online patient scheduling

Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of offering online appointment scheduling for patients.

learning the advantages and disadvantages of online medical appointment systems

At A Glance

  • Online appointment scheduling offers patients round-the-clock accessibility and practices operational efficiency.
  • Concerns around online appointment scheduling include the loss of personal touch and the complexity of getting started.
  • Despite hesitations, using online booking systems can streamline patient care and practice success.

Many patients turn online to schedule doctor appointments. 39% of patients want easier ways to book an appointment, according to Tebra's Patient Perspectives report. Yet it's still common for patients to call their providers to book appointments rather than go online. This can be time-consuming and frustrating — for patients and staff alike — and practices risk losing net-new patients.

Both patients and providers want many of the same things: less time spent on administrative tasks, greater convenience in scheduling appointments, and more effective practice-patient communication. Here’s a quick overview of the advantages and disadvantages of online doctor appointment scheduling.

Common concerns of online patient scheduling

Online scheduling can be faster, more convenient, and clearer. With a good online booking system, patients can see your availability and what insurance plans your practice accepts. They can compare their availability to yours, and select the type of appointment they need.

But some doctors have reservations about giving patients more control of their appointment scheduling. It might feel out-of-control to give patients a full view of their practice's open availability. It might also be unclear whether patients will know enough to schedule the correct type of appointment or amount of time.

The disadvantages of automated medical appointments include: 

  • Loss of personal connection: One advantage of independent practice is being able to form individual connections with patients. Phone booking can seem to cement a dialogue, whereas online booking might initially appear to be more detached.
  • Lack of medical knowledge: Patients may not be able to self-classify their appointment type or urgency. Is a patient having a problem that requires a routine checkup or are they experiencing something emergent?
  • Data security concerns: Patients might view their personal data as more at risk during digital interactions.
  • Operational complications: Getting used to a new workflow can be challenging. Practices considering switching to online doctor appointment booking systems will have to adjust workflows.
Patient Perspectives Report

Advantages of online medical practice appointment systems

In spite of these worries, online medical appointments solutions help optimize front-desk operations and give staff time to redirect their energies towards more time-sensitive or revenue-generating tasks. New and established practices can achieve: 

  • Cost savings: Practices save both time and money, without hiring new staff. Reducing the amount of administrative work means better use of time and more efficiency.
  • Fewer no-shows: Send multiple automated reminders to patients before their appointments, increasing the likelihood they’ll show up.
  • Better security: With proper online security and encryption, patients’ and doctors’ communication can remain secure.
  • Visibility: Online scheduling links can integrate with your practice website and online listings to boost your visibility and make it easier for patients to book appointments no matter where they find you.
  • Accessibility: Unlike phone booking which must occur during business hours or involve a lot of back and forth, online booking enables patients to make appointments on their timeline and when they are available to do so.
  • A better patient experience: By offering patients greater convenience, they’ll be more satisfied with your practice, and more likely to refer your practice to their friends and family. 
  • Integration: Online appointment booking can connect to your electronic health record (EHR), telehealth, ePrescribing software, and more for a seamless digital experience.

Implementing an online doctor appointment system is part of an effective marketing strategy and an effective way to improve patients’ experience of your practice. Research the different options and decide which online appointment system best suits the specific needs of your practice.

You Might Also Be Interested In

Learn how to create a seamless patient experience that increases loyalty and reduces churn, while providing personalized care that drives practice growth in Tebra’s free guide to optimizing your practice. 

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Molly Maloof

Dr. Molly is passionate about using technology to improve the lives of patients and healthcare providers. She graduated from the University of Illinois College of Medicine and was a pediatric resident in the Kaiser Permanente Oakland/Berkeley MPH program before making a career shift into digital health. She now advises early-stage health technology startups.

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