Monday, January 3, 2011

More Patients Making Appointments Online As Doctors Embrace Web - Kaiser Health News

After relocating to Washington, D.C., Clint Morrison needed a doctor to follow up a tonsillectomy he had a few weeks earlier in California. But when he started calling specialists in his health plan’s directory, he struck out: they either weren't taking new patients or had no openings for several weeks.  

So in September Morrison went to a website called He could see doctors' appointment calendars and identify those that took his insurance and were located near his office. With a couple clicks, Morrison, 24, scheduled an appointment for the next day with Mark Dettelbach, an ear, nose and throat doctor. "It was painless," Morrison says of the experience.

Dettelbach's group practice is one of a growing number that allow patients to schedule appointments online — eliminating multiple calls, waiting on hold and increasing the likelihood of finding someone with an opening.

About 16 percent of family doctors used online scheduling in 2009, up from 6 percent in 2005, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Most are doing it on their own or through health systems where they work.

Several factors drive the trend. On the doctors' side, it's mostly the need to add patients and reduce overhead costs. They're also growing more comfortable with computers. About half of family doctors use electronic health records and 44 percent prescribe electronically, according to the academy.

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