Time-poor Australians are increasingly booking their healthcare appointments outside of office hours through online services and apps like 1st Available.
The service, which is free for patients but requires a fee for healthcare providers, has seen more than half of its appointments booked outside business hours, with patients aged between 30-45 making up 44 percent of its users.
“We’re driving what we think is an important change in the marketplace, one that we know is what consumers and practices want,” says Klaus Bartosch, executive chairman of 1st Available.
Created by dentist Dr Rick Luu, the start-up launched early last year with a number of tech-savvy healthcare professionals quickly getting on board.
“We went looking for major corporates or healthcare practice owners who were demonstrating through various actions and things they were doing that they were likely to be early adopters,” says Bartosch.
“We also tried to make sure we had an ongoing understanding of what the market needed, what was the right way to engage them, what was the right thing they were looking for?”
Bartosch says these early adopters were essentially collaborators, helping the team behind 1st Available build and improve the platform based on their early experiences using it.
Though all kinds of providers have signed on to use the service, 57 percent of appointments were made with dentists, compared to just 17 percent made with GPs.
“The waiting rooms of GPs are largely full. For them, securing new customers or offering the convenience to existing customers to book with them typically hasn’t been a high priority,” Bartosch says.
On the other hand, Bartosch believes dentists and other healthcare professionals often face problems attracting new patients and bringing efficiency to their practice.
“They’re much more business oriented in the way they think about their practices. They actually have stronger motives to take interest in a service like this than GPs.”
However, 1st Available hasn’t just given up on the local family doctor. The company recently signed a deal with the Independent Practitioner Network (IPN), which will bring almost 1500 GPs onto the service.
As well as bringing ease and convenience to the booking of appointments, 1st Available is also focused on helping healthcare professionals provide better customer service to existing patients.
With front desk staff in medical waiting rooms spending most of their time on the phone managing appointments, 1st Available aims to reduce phone time and help staff better attend to patients in person.
“Delivering great customer service and convenience to customers is the best way to both attract new patients and retain the patients that you’ve already got,” Bartosch says.
Despite being targeted towards time-poor workers, 1st Available has also seen growth in older users, with a quarter of its users aged 46 or above.
“The big rise in online bookings is indicative of the growing demand of consumers relying on technology to simplify their lives, as well as practitioners who are starting to realise they must respond to customer demand,” says technology reviewer Peter Blasina.
Moving forward, the key to the start-up’s ongoing success is bringing more healthcare providers on board.
“That’s the challenge in our business…we don’t yet have the tens of thousands of providers on our service that we need to give you the experience that you’re looking for,” Bartosch says.
The service is expected to grow three to four times its current size between now and December.