Every patient knows this: making an appointment with a doctor by phone is a waiting game. If you don’t want to do that, you can try it online. An experiment in Frankfurt.
Looking at the date of birth calls to mind: it’s time for the preventive medical checkup. The phone number at hand, the patient calls his doctor. But the line is busy. The next attempt a few minutes later brings the same unfortunate result. The idea of trying again the next day doesn’t go anywhere either: “Unfortunately, you’re calling outside our office hours.” Too bad that the answering machine is only a message machine, but does not store appointment requests. That’s when a tip from an acquaintance came in handy: In the meantime, many doctors in the Rhine-Main region use customer-friendly software that allows patients to send an appointment request on the Internet. He said that was worth a try.
This is the Doctena platform, as online research quickly reveals. On this page, patients can select a doctor by city and district, specialty and specialization. As in real life, the list ranges from general and family practitioners to ophthalmologists, gynecologists, neurologists, orthodontists and dentists. Under the heading “other specialties” you will find the doctor for acupuncture as well as the andrologist, the endocrinologist, the special pain therapist or the pediatric rheumatologist. Those who are consciously looking for a holistic dentist will also find what they are looking for. Not to forget urologists. Clicking on the note of a urological practice on the outskirts of downtown Frankfurt opens – as with other entries on this website – a dossier.
“As secure as online banking”
In it, the practice provides information about its concept in a few easy-to-understand sentences. It says, for example, that it wants to offer patients a relaxed atmosphere and has paid attention to building materials that are as low in pollutants as possible. Above all, however, the doctors introduce themselves with a tabular curriculum vitae. This is where the advantage of such online offerings becomes apparent: In order to ensure corresponding openness by other means, a practicing physician would not only have to provide for notices in his practice, but also widely distribute flyers. In addition, the practice team presents itself on the website with a photo. The patient can therefore literally get a picture of the doctors and assistants. And in the middle of the page, highlighted in blue, is the next available date. Whereby the day appears first, not the time.
However, after a click, a small table opens with the available times. Another click away is an online form on which the patient must enter not only his name but also his e-mail address and mobile number. In addition, he must click on whether he is a “new patient” or an “existing patient” in this practice and whether he has statutory or private insurance. The reason for the visit must be selected, e.g. blood sample, kidney stones or preventive check-up. Last but not least, the click at the general terms and conditions must not be missing.
Five minutes for appointment
Anyone who then presses the green “continue” button will immediately receive an SMS tan sent to their cell phone. For this reason, the cell phone should be turned on, the number of which one has indicated on the form. Afterwards, the interested party has five minutes to search for a binding appointment. A clock counting down shows how many seconds are left for each. The whole exercise takes less than ten minutes. During this time, the patient does not have to be annoyed by continuous minutes on the line or a hotline. The whole thing is comfortable and relaxing.
Now online inquiries are not everyone’s cup of tea. To meet doubters, the Doctena site points to the external data protection officer involved and SSl encryption with which patient data would be transferred (“as secure as online banking”). Also, the platform reminds free of charge by SMS of the respective date.
However, doctors who manage without such a platform have been doing the latter themselves for years – if they keep something on customer service. Up and down the country, physicians in private practice also maintain their own websites. They also assign appointments there. However, in such cases, the patient must already know which doctor he wants to go to. On the other hand, he can find a selection on the platform – this is an advantage for patients who are still looking for a doctor. Especially since they can find reviews of the respective practice that other patients have given.
In Frankfurt, a good 250 physicians in private practice are listed on the platform. Among them is a dentist from Sachsenhausen. He has been using Doctena for two years. The reason: He wanted to offer an independent system that would allow him to make appointments outside of office hours.
But word of the service still needs to get out to patients. The dentist from Sachsenhausen reports a daily appointment request coming in via the portal.