Long waiting times for registration to see a doctor is problematic in China, especially in tertiary hospitals. To address this issue, a web-based appointment system was developed for the Xijing hospital. The aim of this study was to investigate the efficacy of the web-based appointment system in the registration service for outpatients.
Data from the web-based appointment system in Xijing hospital from January to December 2010 were collected using a stratified random sampling method, from which participants were randomly selected for a telephone interview asking for detailed information on using the system. Patients who registered through registration windows were randomly selected as a comparison group, and completed a questionnaire on-site.
A total of 5641 patients using the online booking service were available for data analysis. Of them, 500 were randomly selected, and 369 (73.8%) completed a telephone interview. Of the 500 patients using the usual queuing method who were randomly selected for inclusion in the study, responses were obtained from 463, a response rate of 92.6%. Between the two registration methods, there were significant differences in age, degree of satisfaction, and total waiting time (P < 0.001). However, gender, urban residence, and valid waiting time showed no significant differences (P > 0.05). Being ignorant of online registration, not trusting the internet, and a lack of ability to use a computer were three main reasons given for not using the web-based appointment system. The overall proportion of non-attendance was 14.4% for those using the web-based appointment system, and the non-attendance rate was significantly different among different hospital departments, day of the week, and time of the day (P < 0.001).
Compared to the usual queuing method, the web-based appointment system could significantly increase patient's satisfaction with registration and reduce total waiting time effectively. However, further improvements are needed for broad use of the system.