Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Questionnaire survey about use of an online appointment booking system in one large tertiary public hospital outpatient service center in China

MinMin Zhang1, CongXin Zhang2, QinWen Sun3, QuanCai Cai4, Hua Yang2* and YinJuan Zhang2

Author Affiliations

1 Gastroenterology Department of Shanghai Changhai Hospital, Second Military Medical University, 168 Changhai Road, Shanghai 200438, China

2 Outpatient Service Center of Shanghai Changhai Hospital, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, China

3 Department of Physics and Mathematics, College of Basic Medical Science, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, China

4 Clinical Epidemiology and Evidence-based Medicine Center, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, China

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2014, 14:49  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-14-49

Published: 9 June 2014

Abstract

Background

As a part of nationwide healthcare reforms, the Chinese government launched web-based appointment systems (WAS) to provide a solution to problems around outpatient appointments and services. These have been in place in all Chinese public tertiary hospitals since 2009.

Methods

Questionnaires were collected from both patients and doctors in one large tertiary public hospital in Shanghai, China.Data were analyzed to measure their satisfaction and views about the WAS.

Results

The 1000 outpatients randomly selected for the survey were least satisfied about the waiting time to see a doctor. Even though the WAS provided a much more convenient booking method, only 17% of patients used it. Of the 197 doctors surveyed, over 90% thought it was necessary to provide alternative forms of appointment booking systems for outpatients. However, about 80% of those doctors who were not associated professors would like to provide an ‘on-the-spot’ appointment option, which would lead to longer waits for patients.

Conclusions

Patients were least satisfied about the waiting times. To effectively reduce appointment-waiting times is therefore an urgent issue. Despite the benefits of using the WAS, most patients still registered via the usual method of queuing, suggesting that hospitals and health service providers should promote and encourage the use of the WAS. Furthermore, Chinese health providers need to help doctors to take others’ opinions or feedback into consideration when treating patients to minimize the gap between patients’ and doctors’ opinions. These findings may provide useful information for both practitioners and regulators, and improve recognition of this efficient and useful booking system, which may have far-reaching and positive implications for China’s ongoing reforms.

Keywords:
outpatient care; Waiting list; Online appointment booking system; Questionnaire; Healthcare reform