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Published 16 August 2012 05:03, Updated 20 August 2012 07:19
Log on: An online appointment booking system in action Anna Warr
Companies are vying to capture the market for booking medical appointments online.
In the United States, Zocdoc, an online service that lets patients book appointments, has already seen success in this area. According to Zocdoc, it has more than 7 million appointments that can be booked online and more than 1.2 million people use it to locate a dentist or doctor each month.
In Australia, both 1stAvailable and HealthEngine are looking to tap the health appointments market.
1stAvailable has more than 1200 health practitioners signed up to use its system, of which about 200 are GPs. The company’s goal is to have 10,000 practitioners subscribed by the end of 2013, chief executive Rick Luu says.
HealthEngine has 120 GP practices on its site, with about 480 to 500 practitioners and is in the process of signing up a national company, taking the number of practices to nearly 200, or 800 practitioners. The company will soon extend its service to allied health, dentists and specialists, according to its medical director, Marcus Tan. HealthEngine is aiming to capture 70 per cent of the market for web searches for GP appointments in the next 12 months. That market comprises GP practices that are looking to market themselves, which Tan believes to be about 700 to 1000 at any time.
The companies believe using their websites to let patients book appointments will benefit health professionals in a number of ways.
One is that it helps practitioners avoid losing money over empty appointment slots. “Health professions are also small businesses – the product the health professional sells is actually professional time,” says Luu. “Time is a perishable good, it’s something that has a use-by date and if they don’t manage to sell that time, or utilise that time, then that product goes to waste.”
HealthEngine is particularly useful for practices that are in growth mode, practices that may have added capacity and not be totally booked out, says Tan. As well as marketing the practice, they can track how successful their marketing is in the process.
“We have established practices on our books who have taken on a new doctor and found that they’re not as busy as they used to be and are trying to help that new doctor grow their practice,” Tan says.
Both companies also can take some of the work away from receptionists. “We drive front desk efficiency,” says Luu. “By pushing bookings from phone to online we are alleviating the bottle-necking of a reception area of a health practice.”