Memorial Hermann is using a global searching and booking platform to give it a marketing edge as well as getting the “downstream” benefits of easier patient scheduling, according to David Bradshaw, the health system’s chief information, marketing and planning officer, during an interview at the HIMSS13 conference in New Orleans.

The booking platform, built on technology from HealthPost Inc. but self-branded by Memorial Hermann as ScheduleNow (being able to self-brand makes a huge difference, Bradshaw noted) enables patients to schedule appointments online via a site that lists physicians by location, specialty, gender, accepted insurance plans and a number of other filters. It extends across Memorial Hermann’s huge outpatient network as well as its emergency departments, where it shows current wait times as well as enabling patients to “hold their place in line,” Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw says the booking platform, which has been deployed for a year, has been helpful in driving new business to the health system. One indication is that the number of patients with insurance going to Memorial Hermann’s emergency departments has increased since the booking platform was implemented, Bradshaw said. “When it comes to ED operations, it’s all about the mix, and the better mix is helping us financially.” The health system is also seeing a big spike in self-scheduled mammograms, he added.

In addition, the booking platform is helping Memorial Hermann strengthen its referral network by enabling physicians and office staff to help patients quickly schedule follow-up care and tests or procedures from specialists using the system. And its referral coordinators are also using it to contact patients without primary care physicians to get them signed up with a PCP within the network.

“We’re in competitive markets, and anything that gives you a way to make the patient experience simpler is going to give you an edge if you market it in the right way to patients,” Bradshaw said. “And we got lucky with this—we first and foremost thought of it as a marketing tool, but it’s turning out to be delivering a lot more.” The ScheduleNow site is at www.memorialhermann.org/schedulenow

 

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