Smart phones are ubiquitous today and most consumers expect to run pretty much all their lives from them – whether that’s keeping in touch with friends and family by phone and email; making notes; taking photos; setting reminders; searching up suppliers… or making appointments.
There are plenty of Apps out there that let you make online bookings for doctors, restaurants, hotels and flights – no doubt, you’ve used them. However, until recently, there’s been nothing available that allows consumers to make an appointment to see their optometrist.
1ST Group is an innovative Australian company that identified the opportunity and just nine months ago came to the market with MyHealth1st, an online optometry booking system that integrates with Sunix, Optomate and 30 other practice management software systems in realtime.
No Strangers to the System
The founders of 1ST Group are no strangers to online booking systems. Managing Director Klaus Bartosch was a founding executive in CloudTech Group and Virtual Ark, where he led a global team in marketing cloud based services to enterprise customers. Before that, he worked with Hostworks, the company responsible for managing online systems for the likes of Seek.com, Ticketek.com and Wotif.com. It was the latter’s business model, based on filling last minute rooms in hotels that inspired this new portal for optometrists.
Among 10,000 practitioners now use its portals including around 1,500 optometrists as well as pharmacies, private practices, doctors, dentists…
The company, originally known as 1stAvailable, was established in 2012 and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in June 2015. It quickly acquired GObookings, an online booking portal for enterprise; Clinic Connect and DocAppointments (online booking portals for healthcare). In 2016 1stAvailable founded PetYeti an online booking system in the Veterinary space.
In late 2016, 1stAvailable launched a range of additional products and services including Self Checkin Kiosks and Apps, Patient Clipboard Apps, Advertising, Call Centre App, easyRECALL App and easyFEEDBACK App. In early 2017, they rebranded 1stAvailable as MyHealth1st.
Earlier this year MyHealth1st reached several milestones, now supporting 4,500 sites, and celebrated 5.5 million online appointments booked since 2012. Over 10,000 practitioners are now on its platforms including around 1,500 optometrists, as well as pharmacies, private practices doctors, dentists, allied services, radiology, veterinarians, corporate and government agencies.
June 2017, MyHealth1st released the MyHealthTV & Health Guide, providing information to help patients understand health conditions and prepare for appointments.
According to Klaus Bartosch the company intends to continue adding new products and services to improve its customers’ businesses and enhance the patients’ digital experience when accessing healthcare. “We plan to soon include telehealth services and more over time. We know that by simplifying access for patients, we can and do have a profound impact on their health and wellbeing, and that’s our mission.”
Optometrist Michael Jones from RJK Optometry in Coffs Harbour was one of the first optometrists to take up the MyHealth1st platform. A self-confessed technology enthusiast, he had long been encouraging patients to visit his practice online via his website and Facebook, then to call for an appointment. All that’s now changed, with patients encouraged to book online via the platform.
Mr. Jones said within six months of installing MyHealth1st, he discovered that 60 – 70 per cent of his new patients had found their way to his practice online and 50 per cent of those were booking appointments via the MyHealth1st portal. He said 90 per cent of bookings made online were made after hours and no shows had significantly reduced, to less than 1 per cent. Interestingly, he said patients of all ages were using MyHealth1st.
In addition to bringing in new patients, Mr. Jones is using MyHealth1st to bring existing customers back for regular screenings. “We used to use paper records and we’d send out recalls when we got around to it – it would take forever to segment the patents into recall types, before posting out the individualised notices.
“Using MyHealth1st’s EasyRecall system has been amazing – we send out a customised text message and the system automatically follows up people that haven’t booked. Each message has a smart link embedded, so when the patient books their appointment online, all their details are immediately populated in Optomate, including notes from the previous consult that tell us why the patient is coming back.”
Mr. Jones said initial concerns about how online bookings would be managed were quickly allayed. “The system sits in the background and communicates with Optomate in real time so double booking appointments is virtually impossible. We’re also able to filter our available appointments to ensure the most appropriate optometrist sees patients with particular needs such as paediatrics or CASA screenings; and we can block out periods or even days required for breaks, administration, holidays etc.”
Mr. Jones said all online bookings generate a confirmation for both the patient and the practice and interestingly, patients using the new system are both young and old, reflecting the take up of digital technology across the generations.
According to MyHealth1st, the online portal: