The Impact on Provider Selection and Appointment Booking Amidst COVID-19

As healthcare has had to adapt to COVID-19, one of the areas impacted most was how and when patients schedule appointments.  To better understand some of the changes that COVID-19 has brought to healthcare, we interviewed Puneet Maheshwari, Co-founder and CEO of DocASAP, to learn what he’s seeing with their customers when it comes to patients searching for providers and scheduling appointments.

Tell us about yourself and DocASAP.

I am a technologist and entrepreneur on a mission to break down barriers to care. Prior to founding DocASAP in 2012, I worked in various Silicon Valley startups as well as in the business technology office of McKinsey & Company, where I advised Fortune 500 companies. I have a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and earned a master’s degree in finance and entrepreneurial management from The Wharton School of Business.

The idea for DocASAP was sparked after my own family’s frustrating experience accessing care. I knew there had to be a better way for patients to find the right, available provider. From there, I set out to create a solution that would streamline the process by navigating patients to the right provider and care setting at the right time.

Today, DocASAP provides the industry’s most advanced patient access and engagement platform, serving some of the largest health systems and health plans, thousands of providers and millions of healthcare consumers across the U.S.

You provide provider search and navigation for healthcare organizations, what interesting trends have you seen in that because of COVID-19?

COVID-19 is accelerating innovation in healthcare faster than ever before, including telemedicine. And while telemedicine isn’t new, what we’re seeing now is health systems are looking at weaving it into their end-to-end care delivery models with an eye toward the right setting for care.

This is great news, especially as 68% of healthcare consumers have postponed or canceled an in-person healthcare appointment due to COVID-19, according to our recent “Telehealth Consumer Experience” 2020 survey.

Most healthcare organizations have been hit hard by COVID-19, how are your customers doing at getting back to pre-COVID-19 levels?

COVID-19 has altered traditional healthcare delivery. Since the beginning of the pandemic, providers across the board experienced a rapid decline in in-person appointments. To bridge the gap in care, many quickly began offering telemedicine services, either via phone call or video.

These virtual visits are becoming a preferred way of receiving care as more people are introduced to it. This is due to a number of factors, including ease of access and convenience of care- and doing it all safely. Rural and medically underserved communities can significantly benefit from this. Additionally, even as practices are opening their doors, we expect patient anxiety with in-person appointments will remain into 2021.

Our customers are concerned with patients delaying care, since it can lead to further health complications. They’ve quickly adapted and put safety protocols in place. They’re now one of the safest places to visit. The combination of telemedicine with contact-less in-person care will help providers over time get back to pre-pandemic appointment levels as well as deliver care to a greater number of at-risk patients.

Across your customers, what’s telehealth adoption been like and where is it heading now that healthcare organizations are able to open up again?

I think before COVID-19, telemedicine was viewed in isolation, accounting for only around 2% of visits. As that number increased dramatically in the last few months, providers gained a better understanding of what can be done virtually versus in person. Telemedicine will continue post-pandemic, supported by all stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem as a critical component of end-to-end care management.

You also have DocASAP online scheduling, what have you done to adapt this to work with telehealth as it’s gotten so popular?  How do you navigate a patient to telehealth vs in person?

We help our healthcare customers navigate patients to the right provider and care setting at the right time. Telehealth is another care setting and we already supported it before the pandemic. As a result, we’ve been able to move fast in getting scheduling for telehealth live. We are also helping streamline creation of these scheduled virtual visits as well as automate confirmations and reminders that provide access to login details.

When it comes to navigating patients to optimal care, including whether it’s an in-person or virtual visit, our technology’s algorithms help match the patient’s clinical and timely care needs with provider clinical and operational protocols used to schedule appointments. For example, a patient seeking to schedule an online appointment with our solution may find matching specialists who treat their specific chronic condition. One specialist is available later in the week for an in-person appointment and another in the same practice is available next morning for a virtual visit. The patient is empowered to select the right care and providers maintain control over scheduling, including the care setting.

How do you think the virtual front door of healthcare will continue to evolve?  What will a healthcare organization need to manage this ever-changing world?

Healthcare consumers are digitally savvy and will continue to expect online, self-enrollment capabilities, including scheduling an appointment, checking in and completing forms prior to the visit and getting cost estimates. Additionally, digital care delivery is going to happen more and more at home, meaning that care activities like monitoring vitals can and will be done remotely. While these capabilities already existed, the pandemic accelerated adoption.

To meet demand, providers must develop a more end-to-end virtual practice and a digital mindset. This requires infrastructure in terms of technology, data integration and processes.

Anything else you’ve seen or learned during COVID-19?

In just three months, the pandemic has propelled the healthcare industry forward three to five years. It’s been remarkable to see the healthcare community mobilize so quickly and work together. COVID-19 has not only shown us that the technology to support telemedicine is ready but also that the learning curve is not daunting. We’re experiencing a much-needed transformation in healthcare and I’m excited to see how technology will continue to improve the delivery of care.

This article is part of the #HealthIT100in100.

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About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

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