DocAppointments to release app for Android

Online doctor appointments provider DocAppointments.com.au will officially launch its new Android application at the GP Conference and Exhibition (GPCE) in Brisbane this month.

The Android app is in addition to the free iPhone and iPad app released six months ago. The apps enable patients to book an appointment with their doctor through their mobile phone or iPad, with an additional function of automatically placing reminders in the user's calendar.

Patients receive reminders one day and one hour before their appointment through the calendar function, meaning practices do not have to pay for SMSs while also reducing the amount of patients missing appointments.

Designed by Tasmanian GP Calin Pava from the Devonport GP Superclinic, DocAppointments.com.au is a computer-based system that is integrated into PracSoft and Best Practice.

It allows practices to make appointments available through their own website and is aimed at reducing the time receptionists spend fielding phone calls, particularly first thing in the morning.

Dr Pava said the reason he had designed the system was due to dissatisfaction with the other online appointment booking products on the market.

“There were two systems we looked at for our practice but one was too expensive, charging a fee per month per doctor and then a charge per appointment,” Dr Pava said. “For practices with more than six doctors, for instance, that can get too expensive. And I couldn't see the logic in paying for appointments. I want more appointments to be made online but the more I make available the more I pay. It seemed counterproductive.”

He said other products he looked at allowed the patient to choose the earliest appointment available at different practices, with surgeries advertising on the same page as competitors. “That's convenient for the patient but a bit counterproductive for the practice,” he said. “You lose not only revenue but also the continuity of care that is so important in caring for our patients.”

DocAppointments lets patients book an appointment with their regular doctor or with other doctors in the practice if the regular doctor is not available. If the patient needs to cancel, they simply go back into the system and delete the appointment, freeing it up for other patients.

The patients can see all the appointments available in the surgery on one particular day or sort by doctor and by week, so non-urgent appointments can be booked weeks in advance. For patients who need urgent care, such as mothers of sick children, they can book in for the first available appointment without having to go to a hospital or wait until morning to try to get an appointment. It also reduces the time spent time on the phone.

Doctors and receptions merely need to designate a free appointment as “Internet” in their clinical software to bring up the system, which will then automatically make the appointments available online. The practice manager can choose which doctors have online appointments and have full access to the contact details of registered patients in the admin area.

Each patient can add family members and can make only one appointment at a time for each registered family member. Having access to each registered patient allows the practice to block a patient from making online appointments, avoiding any possible abuse of the system.

Dr Pava said that in his practice over one-third of the appointments are now booked online. He has also been able to move two of his reception staff away from the phone and into chronic disease management work.

The service is available for an initial installation fee and a monthly licence fee per practice, with no additional charges per doctor or per appointment.

While at the moment around 65 per cent of the appointments are made through the desktop, the mobile applications actually make the whole process faster and simpler, Dr Pava said.

“It's easier with the app than on the computer because the app will remember your password and user name. It also remembers who your doctor is. And once you have made an appointment it will email you, and integrate into your calendar so you are reminded 24 hours and then one hour before your appointment.”

The apps also let new patients open a Google map to show them where the practice is located.

While the service is currently only available with PracSoft and Best Practice, Dr Pava has contacted Stat Health to integrate it with Stat, and he is in discussions with other commonly used practice management software companies.

The Brisbane GPCE, where the DocAppointments Android app will be launched, is being held from September 14 to 16 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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