Users’ behaviors and expectations
Now that we’d built a visual documentation of what existed we still needed to check how our users would proceed to request appointments or answer an appointment request.
Talking with providers
We organized conversations with several types of providers: medical doctors and behavioral therapists. We also talked to subject experts among our vertical product managers (medical providers, psychiatry, health systems, behavioral).
We asked behavioral providers how they were using the behavioral platform for scheduling.
We asked every provider we talk to to describe real world appointment management and scheduling.
Overall Key Findings:
Staffers do the schedule
Providers generally use a staffer to handle their appointments. When providers are handling their own scheduling they want to avoid live interactions as they are too time-consuming.
They would prefer communicating by messaging and would prefer not communicating all prior the appointment.
Yet some behavioral therapists appear eager to engage with the client before the appointment with a personalized message in order to engage the potential patient.
Many schedules on one device
All providers will refer to a “primary calendar” which is either their EMR calendar or, oftentimes, a consolidated calendar organized on their own devices (e.g. importing Google Cal, iCal formats). There are differences between providers operating from a clinic with fixed work hours who tend to allocate “online hours” and providers operating on their own and considering personal calendars when planning consultations.
Appointments are negotiated
Appointments are always negotiated between parties unless the provider’s schedule is published online and visible to patients. This is usually done quickly on the phone. It can be done over emails (asynchronous messaging) but can lead to several rounds of back and forth communications.
Consultation length is variable
Consultations can be of different lengths and the nature of the consultation involves a range of fees tied to the procedure performed.
Providers may plan a series of appointments over the course of a treatment (behavioral therapy, post-op checkups, )
Providers want to spend the least amount of time managing appointments. Few providers, especially specialists, are invested in telehealth but are willing to give it a try.
Most medical providers delegate appointment management to a staffer. Telehealth consultations account for smaller portions of a provider’s workload. Consequently, they tend to refer to a primary calendar to find availability for online consultations.
To make up for lack of time and budget we organized an internal survey with company employees. To reduce bias we didn’t include anyone involved with design, product, or strategy, and tried our best to emulate the diversity of users registered to our site.
Our objective was to verify a patient’s journey towards a confirmed appointment with a medical specialist.
Patient generally calls the practice office to request a visit unless they are registered with a health system which provides online scheduling. They don’t expect to be talking directly with the provider when requesting a visit. They may have questions regarding length of treatments or types of procedures. If no-one answers they expect to be called back after leaving a message.
(Confirming previous studies) Patients who have the ability to choose a provider will choose by location, payment method, then availability. Sometime patients make a choice based on clinical approach. These behaviors change according to the severity of the patient’s condition.
Medical practices give the patient a “first available” option and one or two alternatives
The price or length of consultation isn’t questioned. Providers will indicate the length of a visit if it’s particularly long or requires specific dispositions.
Behavioral therapy first visit is generally an hour, although shorter visits may be offered. Medication refills or routine check ups are similar to low acuity care visits.
All patients prefer checking availability online if they can (bias: all participants are familiar with online services, as are the majority of telehealth users)
Patients seek the earliest appointment that match their availability. Patients often ask questions which are conditional to booking an appointment. If appointments are not directly available online patients are willing to call a practice to discuss appointments.