Easy healthcare appointments benefit health practitioners

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We can all identify with the frustration of having to telephone, even being placed on hold for lengthy periods just to make a healthcare appointment.

Often we have to add our names to wait lists for the next cancellation or available appointment, either because our healthcare provider is fully booked or, we have to try and schedule the time to fit it into our own busy work days. It can be challenging, surprisingly inconvenient and time consuming. 

Now a new free online service known as 1stAvailable.com.au allows the consumer to book an appointment time to see their doctor, physiotherapist or chiropractor during the healthcare professionals existing practice hours, all via their computer or mobile device. According to 1stAvailable it makes life easier for the consumer, and helps the practice free up their receptionist to attend to patient needs.

Using 1stAvailable, consumers can save a list of their healthcare professionals all in one place online. Consumers are able to select a suitable appointment from their practioner's published appointments, book it and have it confirmed.

The service is also expected to be used by consumers who want to take advantage of last minute cancellations and access an immediate appointment.

Since it was launched in April this year, 1stAvailable.com.au has already attracted doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, allied and complementary healthcare professionals. Already more than one thousand healthcare practitioners nationally have signed up for 1stAvailable.

A recent Newspoll survey identified that more than one third of consumers report difficulty booking healthcare appointments. The 1stAvailable.com.au service is free for consumers to use while healthcare practitioners pay an annual subscription.

Developed by medical clinicians, working alongside technology executives involved in online portals such as Wotif.com, realestate.com.au, ninemsn and seek.com, 1stAvailable.com.au is said to represent a breakthrough by offering online self-service access to appointments with subscribing healthcare professionals.

According to 1stAvailable, healthcare ranks as the most commonly sought-after subject on the internet, with nearly nine out of 10 Australians searching online for information about health. The Newspoll survey reported that more than 80 per cent of adults like the idea of booking healthcare appointments online.

Founder and CEO Dr Rick Luu said 1stAvailable.com.au solved the access problem that was a major challenge to the Australian healthcare system.

"Locating a healthcare professional when you’re unwell is often very difficult," he said.

"More than 30 per cent of Australians report postponing medical treatment while 16 per cent have gone to the emergency or casualty wards of a public hospital because they could not obtain an appointment with a local healthcare professional.

"Frequently, we don’t book to see the doctor because of the pressures of our daily routine and by the time we get to make the call, medical practices are closed."

Dr Luu said 1stAvailable.com.au would put patients in the driver’s seat for healthcare through self-service.

"As with booking accommodation, locating real estate or searching for jobs, 1stAvailable.com.au allows individuals to search for health appointments at a time most convenient to them," he said.

"It also simplifies the process of accessing healthcare services at short notice."

Great for patients, great for practitioners

As well as benefiting patients, 1stAvailable.com.au provides positive business results for healthcare practitioners by reducing the pressure on front office staff.  By using 1stAvailable.com.au, healthcare practitioners can expect to see administrative staff spending less time scheduling appointments with patients via telephone, which can account for 20-80 per cent of their day.

This gives them more time to meet the needs of patients in waiting areas, resulting in better customer service and reduced waiting times.

Dr Luu said he wanted every Australian to be aware of the service.

"Patients can help us attract new practitioners, thereby further helping us to improve access to Australia’s healthcare services," he said.

"We believe our service’s coverage, convenience and ease will make 1stAvailable the first place Australians look for access to healthcare services."

Consumers can now register to use the free service from Monday July 2, 2012 www.1stAvailable.com.au

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