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Consumers, providers adopt online doctor appointment scheduling

Using DocASAP, an online doctor appointment scheduling system, healthcare consumers and providers can easily book slots with family care practitioners and specialists.

Unlike many big healthcare systems, Multicare Associates Inc., a doctor-owned physician group in the Minneapolis suburbs, isn't expecting customers to use its electronic patient portal to book appointments with its physicians.

Instead, Multicare, which has about 45 clinicians across three clinics, recently turned to an online doctor appointment scheduling system from DocASAP, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based company that is one of the leaders in Web-based physician scheduling.

Matt Brandt, CEO of Multicare, said that although the practice's EHR, from NextGen Healthcare, includes a patient portal, because the practice is small compared to a full-fledged health system, it is challenging to get enough patients to use the portal to book appointments.

Scheduling physicians online works

But after Multicare officially went live with DocASAP's online doctor appointment scheduling platform in December 2015, some 250 patients -- both new and existing -- used it in the first month to make dates with docs via the Web.

There has to be a simpler way for people to find care.
Puneet Maheshwarifounder and CEO, DocASAP

With DocASAP, patients don't have to log on with a username and password as they would with a portal, but can simply click on a link and instantly make and confirm the appointment. With some portal scheduling systems, there is lag time between when the patient requests an appointment and a staff member schedules a time and confirms it through the portal.

 "This is real-time scheduling. There's no waiting," Brandt said. "We think this gives us the opportunity to market to new patients in the area."

That is because healthcare consumers looking for a physician, whether a general practitioner or specialist, can find doctors they're looking for on DocASAP and book appointments at the same time.

Existing patients also can schedule appointments on Multicare's website using DocASAP's underlying online doctor appointment scheduling system. DocASAP appointments are automatically "mirrored" in NextGen's scheduling module.

Healthcare consumers in 34 states can use DocASAP to find doctors and make appointments, even if the practice or healthcare system hasn't integrated DocASAP into its own workflow as Multicare has. In addition, some big health systems, such as Penn Medicine, and apps, such as WebMD, are DocASAP partners, using DocASAP as their online doctor appointment scheduling system.

DocASAP founder had formative experience

DocASAP's founder and CEO, Puneet Maheshwari, comes to this health IT enterprise from a business rather than medical background, with a Wharton Business School MBA.

But Maheshwari, like many health IT entrepreneurs, had a formative healthcare experience that led him to found his company in 2008. His son had a bad ear infection and the family couldn't find the right doctor and ended up in the emergency room of a local hospital.

"There has to be a simpler way for people to find care," Maheshwari said.

Maheshwari is proud that he and his developers have come up with algorithms to handle complex scheduling procedures such as making appointments for small time increments -- such as 5- and 10-minute appointments -- and with often hard-to-find subspecialists such as elbow and knee surgeons.

From scheduling to patient engagement

Maheshwari sees DocASAP evolving beyond online physician scheduling and more into patient engagement and relationship management. He also plans to expand into more states -- DocASAP is not yet in New England, for example -- and to keep marketing his technology to more big health systems.

In the meantime, Brandt envisions using DocASAP in the near future for appointment reminders, in addition to bookings.

Beyond his role with Multicare, Brandt is also CEO of a regional accountable care organization (ACO) made up of Multicare and 19 other Minneapolis-area physician practices.

The ACO, PrimaCare Direct, also uses DocASAP for patients to make online doctor appointments with the ACO's approximately 300 physicians.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the gender of Puneet Maheshwari's child and to specify the timeframe in which patients used DocASAP'S appointment scheduling platform.

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