Top 2 Trends Specialty Practices Are Focused On for 2024

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Chloe From Clearwave | January 22, 2024

Between economic uncertainty, rising costs, higher wage regulations and increasing patient demands, specialty healthcare practice leaders have a lot to prepare for this year. Two trends in particular demand strategic focus from specialty practices seeking to drive growth amidst these issues. 

Patient attrition rates are increasing as patients struggle to schedule care digitally. At the same time, growing physician shortages lengthen delays in care. Reduced patient loyalty paired with constrained access presents a significant risk that specialty practices must address head on this year. Tactical solutions around patient convenience and scheduling efficiency offer a path to overcoming these obstacles. 

Keep reading to learn more about these top two trends that forward-thinking specialty practices are urgently prioritizing and how they can enable growth through digital patient access and streamlined scheduling in 2024.

Trend 1: Increasing Patient Attrition

Patient attrition has climbed to troublesome rates, averaging 17% annually for most specialty practices. This means about 1 in 5 patients fail to return yearly. Difficulty getting appointments conveniently ranks among the primary culprits. Without digital access and self-service scheduling, practices struggle to keep patients coming back.

Self-Scheduling is Becoming a Deal Breaker for Patients

The data paints a clear picture of how appointment challenges frustrate patients. An overwhelming 82% of patients say they prefer booking their doctor visits online. However, 61% have actually skipped appointments because of hurdles like long phone holds or limited scheduling availability. Lack of digital access puts retention at risk.

These statistics highlight a fundamental shift in how patients expect to access healthcare services. Patient self-scheduling is not just a healthcare trend – it reflects patients demanding more convenience and control. In an era where on-demand services are the norm in other aspects of daily life, patients are no longer willing to wait on hold, carve out time for phone calls to practices, or repeatedly request appointments. After years of having instant access to services like booking travel or food delivery with just a few taps on their smartphones, patients are now applying that expectation of convenience to healthcare as well.

Many practices have hesitated to provide self-scheduling capabilities, concerned that patients would not adopt them. However, patients are clearly signaling their dissatisfaction with appointment systems that fail to meet their digital-first expectations. Allowing self-scheduling not only provides patients the on-demand access they increasingly expect but is also pivotal for retaining patients and growing your practice.

As self-scheduling ceases to be just a patient desire and becomes imperative for competitive differentiation, specialty practices must prioritize patient-centered booking that matches wider service industry trends.

Bridging the Digital Divide

Specialty clinics requiring patients to call in or book through outdated portals often experience the highest churn.  Transitioning to modern conveniences like online scheduling helps regain patient trust and loyalty. 

Here are three digital solutions to consider in order to cure retention woes:

Enable Self-Service Access with Online Booking

Data shows lack of digital access for self-scheduling frustrates patients and risks retention. Enabling 24/7 online booking bridges this divide. 

Specialty practices must provide scheduling convenience, which patients now expect across industries. An online platform allowing self-service scheduling around the clock without staff assistance meets the on-demand booking expectations of both new and existing patients seeking easy access. As trends highlight, self-scheduling enables the independence and convenience fundamental to driving modern patient loyalty. 

Send Proactive Reminders with Scheduling Links

While patient reminders typically serve the purpose of getting those patients to their upcoming appointments on time, this approach can further reduce no-shows by adding scheduling links to those messages. When reminders include a scheduling link, patients can easily modify their appointment if they already know they need to cancel or reschedule. As a result, these patients can rebook their appointment for a time that works for you, and your smart, digital scheduling platform can re-release that slot, enabling it to get booked by other patients, rather than resulting in a no-show. 

Tailoring reminder outreach this way puts booking control back in the patient’s hands via a streamlined one-touch process right from the notification. This combines proactive appointment notifications with instant self-service online access for rescheduling if needed, making booking adjustments effortless for the patient.

Simplify Booking for All Patients

Specialty clinics often implement complex online scheduling systems requiring logins or navigation of outdated patient portals. However, these types of solutions can often deepen patient frustration when trying to book appointments. Instead, successful practices simplify booking access for all patients by enabling user-friendly 24/7 self-scheduling platforms without logins, barriers or complex steps that intimidate people. Eliminating complexity around the booking process for both new and returning individuals proves critical to encouraging use and driving loyalty rather than deterring it. Simplifying and streamlining access is pivotal to reversing attrition rates in 2024 by meeting modern scheduling expectations.

Trend 2: Growing Wait Times for Care

Patients today face worsening wait times for securing needed specialty care, compounding appointment frustrations. Average delays for new patient visits now reach 26 days across specialties, with certain areas seeing even longer stretches before care. For example, those needing orthopedic surgery appointments now experience 48% longer lag times compared to previous years amidst deepening physician shortages greatly contributing to care delays. 

Ultimately patients feel the brunt of growing industry-wide factors leading to wait times that span from weeks to even months just for initial specialty visits. These long wait times present not just an inconvenience but a care access crisis leaving many individuals without treatment while appointment demands go unmet. As delays worsen, patients feel more detached from the healthcare system intended to serve them. 

Impacts of Physician Supply Deficits

Shortages of primary care physicians continue worsening, with projections forecasting deficits ranging from nearly 18,000 up to 48,000 providers by 2034. As physician availability declines relative to population health needs, patients endure even more protracted waits to be seen across specialties. 

Unfortunately, the situation is only expected to intensify – as physician supplies tighten further in coming years, delays risk becoming excessive for patients seeking care across all specialty areas. In essence, appointment lags directly reflect larger shortfalls in medical providers that fail to meet demand. Unless the imbalances between physician availability and patient health needs are resolved, wait times will continue rising to unacceptable levels that deter individuals from seeking or continuing needed care.

Accelerated Access Solutions

While forces driving physician shortages largely evade control of individual practices, specialty healthcare practices can still dramatically curb wait times locally through efficient scheduling protocols. Here’s what your practice can do to see more patients and provide more care.

Curb Last-Minute Cancellations and No Shows

Failed appointments from last-minute patient cancellations or no-shows intensify delays for others in need of care. However, specialty practices can curb short-notice cancellations through automated reminders across text, email, and voice channels prompting attendance prior to visits. 

Customizing reminder rules by lead time and contact method sparks patient memory before each appointment rather than relying solely on them to remember. Driving down last-minute cancellations this way gives practices adequate lead time to offer open slots to waitlisted patients rather than lose revenue from unused availability. 

Automate Waitlist Notifications

A waitlist presents a reliable source for rapidly replacing cancellations to minimize holes in physician calendars. But without speed, that value diminishes. Slow manual alerts to those waiting for openings lead to extended care delays rather than prompt access for patients in need. Instead, practices must automatically trigger instant text or email alerts the moment new availability emerges, enabling waitlisted patients to claim times in real time before the slots remain empty. Automating notifications and enabling self-service scheduling ensures higher fill rates from waitlists.

Face 2024 Challenges Head on to Increase Profits & Patients

As specialty practices look ahead in 2024, reversing patient attrition and expanding access to care represent two trends that demand action. Allowing inconvenient scheduling and delays to go unchecked directly hampers growth initiatives across specialties. By taking decisive action around patient self-scheduling you can overcome impediments to retention and capacity.

Discover more techniques to address key specialty healthcare obstacles this year and propel your organization’s growth. Access additional insights and solutions around the top 2024 trends for specialty practices in this essential guide.

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