Online appointment scheduling growing in popularity

For doctors looking to add patients and lower overhead costs, one easy solution, according to a Kaiser Health News/USA Today collaboration, is online scheduling. While the practice hasn't exactly gone mainstream yet, with only 16 percent of family doctors using online scheduling in 2009, it clearly has become less of an anomaly. Just four years earlier, only 6 percent of doctors participated in the trend. 

Two mass online services highlighted by KHN--ZocDoc and Health In Reach--are fast becoming go-to sites for those looking for quick appointments, particularly younger patients. ZocDoc, which launched in 2007 and currently costs patients nothing and charges doctors a $250 monthly listing fee, boasts hundreds of listings each in four cities: Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago and Dallas. Cyrus Massoumi, the site's CEO, plans to expand to Boston, Los Angeles, Houston and Philadelphia in the near future, and compares his site to restaurant reservation website opentable.com

Health In Reach, which was started just last September in Los Angeles, follows the same model, but offers doctors peace-of-mind for their investment; according to CEO Scott Sangster, the company only receives money when patients schedule their appointments. According to KHN, patients also are asked to pay part of their insurance co-payment online, to ensure a higher rate of appointments taking place. 

Several individual hospitals and health systems already boast their own online scheduling, KHN reports, including Kaiser Permanente and the Cleveland Clinic. The latter, which has allowed patients to make appointments online for three years, now is expanding the service so current patients can see their doctors' schedule. 

Dr. Rami Boutros, the Clinic's interim managing director, calls the tool "valuable"...because it adds to the patient experience. 

"If it's 11 at night," Boutros adds, "patients can check to see if there is an opening tomorrow." 

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News/USA Today piece

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