It’s been more than a decade now that cloud-based technology has been adopted by hospitals and universities for healthcare. However, while numerous Web sites offer health information to people, not many are able to bridge the gap between healthcare providers and patients. Take for example the issue of appointment booking.
For many individuals booking an appointment for the date they want or need it can be very frustrating. It is not uncommon to have to wait a month to have a diagnostic procedure done in the city. A Toronto-based company wants to change that by enabling people to locate a doctor or clinic and then book an appointment in the date that suits them best.
HealthAware.ca, a free Web-based service that rolled out about a month ago, currently offers online appointment booking to a handful of dental clinics, allied health facilities, and diagnostic imaging clinics around the Greater Toronto Area, but builders of the site expect a rapid ramp up by next year which will boost subscribing clinics more than a few hundred. That, according to company co-founder Nikolai Bratkovski will be a welcome development to the more than 100,000 people who visit the site even at this very early stage.
Bratkovski, a software consultant in healthcare field who established the company in 2009 with fellow software developer Oleg Melnikov, said HealthAware will not only help patients book an appointment fast, the site also help doctors and clinics market their services with the least amount of effort.
Bratkovski said the number of visits their site has received is a strong indicator that there is large pool of potential users. “Rather than spending time and money on marketing or creating their own site or booking service, clinics can use our platform and HealthAware will push the patients to their doors.”
If there appears to be a lot of interest from the patient-side of the equation, Bratkovski said, the site is getting equal attention from the healthcare industry. “Clinics from across the country have been calling and emailing us. Yesterday, I spent more than five hours on the phone talking to doctors and clinics who want to sign-up with us.”
How it works
Back in 2004, Bratkovski founded Simms, a medical imaging software company which that specialized in patient diagnostic tools using a software-as-a-service model. By the time Bratkovski left his executive position in the three-person company it had grown into a 70-employee business-to-business operation that also offered billing and patient management services.
Bratkovski and Melnikov started developing HealthAware about a year and a half ago with the idea of creating a free online database that can help people find a doctor or clinic. They realized that they were serving a critical need in the market.
Traditionally, people that need to see a physician in a any given day would go to a doctor’s office and spend an average of two hours in the waiting area until the doctor is ready for them. Other patients call a doctor or a clinic and schedule an appointment. If they are lucky, the appointment would be on a date that they are free.
HealthAware connects to a doctor’s or clinics’ online scheduling systems. When a patient visits the HealthAware site they can “shop around” for a clinic or physician based on several parameters: location, field of speciality and doctor’s name.
Once the user has chosen a particular clinic or doctor, the user can book an appointment using a schedule that shows the date and times that the doctor or clinic is free. Once the user books an appointment, that booking will be logged on the clinic’s online schedule board and time is set aside for that patient.
“A unique feature of HealthAware is that it can integrate with products from various software vendors. This hastens our capability to sign up clinics and also minimizes adoption problems,” said Bratkovski.
For instance, he said, HealthAware is in the process of adding 100 dental clinics and about 400 allied health clinics and doctors’ offices.
How does HealthAware make money?
The company charges doctors and clinics a fee for every patient that schedules an appointment through HealthAware. The fees range from $50 to $200/patient depending on the speciality of the physician. The next time the patient books a schedule with the clinic, the fee is reduced to $1. Testing clinics such as diagnostic imaging centres pay a fee of just below $10/patient because their patients are typically one-visit clients.
“Many doctors and clinics realize that this is a good deal because for them the so-called lifetime value of each patient is in excess of $5,000,” said Bratkovski.
He said there are several sites offering similar services in the United States. In Canada, Bratkovski said ClinicBook.ca provides the same service for dental appointments while Salubri Inc. specializes in wellness and mental health.
By “pushing” patients to the clinics, HealthAware relieves doctors from having to worry about marketing issues, said Bratkovski.
In anticipation of the increased traffic, HealthAware is now seeking extra funding to bring in more staff and develop more strategic partnerships.