Fun with Online Scheduling

William HymanWilliam A. Hyman
Professor Emeritus, Biomedical Engineering
Texas A&M University,
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I recently had the need to make an appointment with one of my specialists, of which I have an increasing number as I age. Going to the provider’s website I found the now familiar opportunity to schedule an appointment online. I selected day and time and “completed” the process. Apparently only the naïve would think having done so actually created an appointment.

I shortly got an email that said my request for an appointment had been forwarded to the provider and I would hear in due course whether my appointment was confirmed. So apparently I had not made an appointment, I had only requested an appointment. After a few days of not hearing further and checking My Appointments at the portal and finding nothing, I then resorted to the old-fashioned way of making an appointment using a device in my home that allows for person-to-person voice communication. I then spoke to a “patient concierge” and made an appointment for the previously requested day, but it turned out to be at a different time than my online effort.

Sometime later I got an email from the online system saying that my original request had been approved. I then went online and checked My Appointments and found only the one I had made by voice. Being conscientious I called and said that perhaps I now had two appointments. No, I was told, just the one I had made by phone.

With the day of the appointment at hand I got a telephone confirmation of the appointment I had made by telephone. But I also got an email confirming the appointment requested online. Being less conscientious at this point I ignored the latter message, confident that I had already confirmed by looking and by voice that this appointment did not exist.

After my medical consultation I mentioned to the doctor that his online appointment system was crap. Not surprisingly he said he didn’t know anything about it and that I should discuss it with the office manager (if I was that kind of person). The office manager being unavailable, I told my tale to one of the concierges. She checked and said sure enough, I had two appointments, the one I just completed and an earlier one which I had skipped. You may remember that I had previously confirmed that I did not have that appointment, but it turned out that the email saying I did have it arrived before the provider’s system had been updated to reflect this. Thus, at the time I checked there was no record of it in the provider’s system even though they had presumably agreed to it.

Aside from the scheduling issue, I will note that my portal had a previous lab result that was headed DO NOT USE. I asked my doctor about this and he said the DO NOT USE was a glitch. I will further point out that I now have five separate patient portals for 6 providers, two of the providers actually being in the same system. Needless to say, these portals cannot communicate with each other.

Isn’t tech grand.