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Creating a Patient-Centered Online Appointment Scheduling Experience

A well-designed appointment scheduling system built from a user-centered design process guarantees great, consumer-first experiences that drive business success.

Consumers today expect convenient and frictionless digital experiences, especially for healthcare, when patience may be limited due to medical needs. Providing a good user experience (UX) is no longer just a perk for our customers—it’s a critical and necessary part of doing business today.

The demand for self-service digital transactions is increasing, and healthcare organizations who provide that option are the more appealing choice for consumers. In fact, 68% of consumers tell us that they’re more likely to use a provider offering appointment scheduling online (Accenture, 2019).

But it’s not enough to provide the option for online scheduling. You need to create a cohesive user experience that delights your consumers. Appointment scheduling is the most crucial moment in the consumer journey, and failure to provide a good user experience could mean the difference between acquiring a new patient and losing them to a competitor.

Unfortunately, most online appointment scheduling experiences today aren’t easy to use. If there are multiple back-end systems involved, the journey is often fragmented, placing the burden on the consumer to connect the dots. This creates a difficult scheduling experience and a frustrated consumer. Potential new patients are often left behind, especially if the patient portal is the only scheduling option. In some cases, this can be the deciding factor in them remaining a potential patient or becoming a new patient.

The result is an experience that at best is on par with your competition—not markedly better. Closing the appointment scheduling gap is critical for driving business growth and improving your consumer experience.

Meeting Consumer Needs Through User-Centered Design

How do we create a digital experience that resonates with consumers and moves our business forward? It starts by focusing on the end user: your consumers.

Too often, software developers allow internal bias, our own assumptions, technology, and cost and time savings to drive our strategic direction and design. But with a user-centered design approach, we use UX research to make evidence-based decisions and create a solution that truly works for our end user. This allows us to go beyond our assumptions and get to the hearts and minds of our consumers so we can better meet their needs.

While this process is often skipped for the sake of cost or time, it’s an investment that pays off in the long run by eliminating risk and reducing downstream costs. Even more importantly, you’ll create an experience that is better for the consumer and improves your ROI.

Creating a Consumer-First Online Appointment Scheduling Experience

As Geonetric set out to re-imagine the online appointment scheduling experience, we created our solution through a user-centered design process. It was important that the solution be fully optimized based on deep UX research, design thinking and user testing, so that it would exceed consumers’ expectations and deliver results for healthcare organizations.

We gathered initial inspiration for the solution by evaluating online booking experiences across many industries—travel, e-commerce, food and beverage, ride-sharing apps, and more. This gave us a solid understanding of the kinds of functionality and experiences consumers were familiar with and expect to see.

After gathering ideas for potential solutions, we didn’t move directly into design and development. We conducted UX research through user testing to gather consumer feedback and validate our ideas. This would identify barriers or areas of confusion that we needed to refine. While this research took additional time up-front, it will pay off in the long term by creating a better, more streamlined user experience.

To conduct this research, we created a functional prototype and tested the solution with actual consumers using real-life scenarios. What we learned was invaluable.

Some insights we uncovered were:

  • The importance of insurance and how it affected consumers’ decision-making during the scheduling process
  • Validation of ideas for new features, such as the option to select an appointment time that is the soonest available
  • Areas of confusion in the user interface and functionality, such as the date selector, progress bar, and location filter
  • Adjustments we needed to make to wording to provide more clarity, such as “preventative care”
  • The desire for additional features, such as the ability to share appointment information with a family member after it was scheduled
  • Validation that overall solution was desirable and very easy to use

“I don’t see where it would drop down. I don’t like it. I don’t understand what it’s going to do.”

“I didn’t know that the bar would drag it down. I assumed that meant scroll.”

With UX research, we can put ourselves in our consumer’s shoes and see things from their perspective. Because we did the research, we knew where the holes were in our solution: what was confusing and what users might struggle with, possibly even causing them to abandon the scheduling process. We got valuable insights to adjust and strengthen the design.

Even more importantly, we validated that our end solution was valuable to consumers, and they were excited to see it and use it. Here is a sample of our feedback.

“My mom isn’t tech savvy and I feel like she could do this easily. Very easy to use.”

“I hope this is something we get to see and use soon!”

This validation from the end user ensures that our time and dollar investments in the design and development will produce good results. Because it’s only through the user-centered design process that we can guarantee we’re creating great, consumer-first experiences that drive business success.

Start with Geonetric

Have you been considering integrating online appointment scheduling into your digital experience? Contact us – we can help from strategy to implementation to reach your digital goals.

Lindsey Steinkamp

Sr. UX Researcher

Creating a Patient-Centered Online Appointment Scheduling Experience