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In our real life environment, we always need meet up with people who are near to us. The arrangement we meeting one person commonly easier than meet group or lots of people. However, if the person we meet is busy business people, their timetable often molded with meeting, working, conference and etc. Thus, the meet up becomes harder. Hence, we need to 'make appointment' in advance which mean deciding a date or venue in advance so that we can ensuring that everyone feels as they have enough notice to attend the meet up. Therefore, we cannot get away from 'appointment' in our real life environment because it's happen around us every day.
Definition Of Appointment
The definition of appointment from dictionary defined as an arrangement to do something or meet someone at a particular time and place. A successful appointment need cooperation from both parties either be a person or a group of person. The both parties are the person or group of person who make the appointment and another party is the person or group of person who accepted or declines the appointment. If one of the parties is unable to attend or process the appointment, the person or people consider as break an appointment. So the appointment can be cancel, postpone or rearrange.
Why do we need appointment? Because of we need a well structure and organized timetable and calendar. Appointment makes use to us to fully utilize and organized our timetable and calendar. Appointment functions are to operating following functions:
make an appointment - make an appointment on available date or time and venue
change an appointment - change/delay the appointment date or time and venue
cancel an appointment - cancel/terminate the appointment
enquire an appointment - check on scheduled appointment date or time and venue
All these functions are operating by a receptionist or a secretary manually. The receptionist or secretary will manually mark down the date or time and venue for the particular appointment to an paper appointment book.
Below image is paper appointment book used by receptionist or secretary:
Paper appointment book
Concept of Appointment Automation System
Nowadays, the trend is clear which along the rapid development of computer technologies. Concept of appointment automation system is to convert all the appointment process to the automated system. This automated system is to replace the manual appointment book that record by the receptionist or a secretary. Appointment automation system may reduce the human mistake done by the receptionist or secretary. This is because a receptionist or a secretary may record down wrong date/time or venue for the scheduled appointment.
Introduction to Appointment Automation System
Automation is the use of control systems and information technologies to reduce the need for human work in the production of goods and services (Wikipedia, 2010). Appointment automation system is to be replacing the manual recording paper work for all the appointment transaction. The appointment process will be transform to a control system and combining use of information technologies to develop automated appointment system. The process of recording down the details of appointment will be computerized. The details are:
Name of person want to make the appointment
Name of person that be appointed in this appointment
Date of the appointment
Time of the appointment
Venue of the appointment
Estimate Duration of the appointment
Beside all basic details stated above, there are still many details might be indicated based on the user requirement. User must always understand what details they are needed to operate their system.
With the entire provided details convert into data, the appointment process can be start automated. With entire data, the appointment automation system can schedule this appointment into the appointer's and appointee's calendar. With immediately response if the appointer's calendar is conflict with appointee's calendar the appointment will be rejected. There will not have redundant or missing appointment in this appointment automation system. Appointer or appointee can choose to change the appointment date or time either cancel the appointment. With this directly response, appointment automation system is eliminate the work of a secretary or a receptionist. It also reduces the response time of both parties and eliminates the actual manual work of a secretary or a receptionist which call the appointer or appointee for reschedule or cancelation of the particular appointment. Appointment automation system is to reduce the human workload turn the appointment process into automation. It also reduces the human mistake done by a secretary or a receptionist that forget about the appointment or forget to re-call or re-confirmation with the appointer or appointee.
Reasons of Using Appointment Automation System
There are some reasons why using appointment automation system:
Reduce double schedule
A secretary or a receptionist might wrongly schedule the appointment transaction because a receptionist might handle more than one person's appointment calendar. The receptionist might accidently double schedule a time slot. Appointment Automation System might eliminate this human mistake and never again accidentally double schedule a time slot.
Appointment Automation System consider as a virtual receptionist in real world environment. Virtual receptionist operates the work as a human receptionist. Virtual receptionist performs multiple tasks that human receptionist may find it difficult. Opting for appointment automation is indeed a great idea that can generate good revenue for businesses. It's a big leap for the businesses growth in future.
Reduce Man Power or Human Difficulty
Appointment Automation System can help company to reduce their man power. Appointment Automation System can replace receptionist or secretary works. System can do a repeat work without feeling bored and panic but human may found it difficult. With this automated system can replace few numbers of receptionists or secretary. Example in a hospital, system can answer patients' calls without getting bored or tired. System also can answer more than one call at a time but human will found it difficult. Hence, during events such as free medical camp, this feature works wonderfully.
Immediate request & response
Appointment Automation System can provide immediate request and response to the use. In manual appointment system this request and response features cannot be performed immediately because a human cannot like perform task like system or machine. Receptionist may found it difficult if want response immediate and the accuracy of the appointment may crash and wrong. Thus, automated system can perform it easily because a receptionist or a secretary cannot work 24/7 and offer same smooth, accuracy welcoming service all time. They may give the wrong information or easily went wrongly if want they response immediate to the appointment arrangement.
This self-scheduling can help automate the appointment scheduling process. A patient or client can access the scheduler at their own convenience anytime anywhere from any internet connection. Once finalized, the system will automatically book the appointment transaction to the database.
Types of Appointment Automation System
There are two types of Appointment Automation System which are non web based Appointment Automation System and web based Appointment Automation System. Each type of system give different architecture to the system.
Non Web based Appointment Automation System
There are two types of non web based appointment automation system. With aid of diagrams to show the design of both types of non web based appointment automation system. Below is the diagram of non web based appointment automation system - type 1:
The diagram showed the non web based appointment automation - type 1's design. In this type of design, the client or person who wants to make appointment must make appointment through the receptionist or secretary. Client or person who wants to make appointment need to have face to face interaction with the receptionist or secretary. The client or person who wants to make appointment is not directly operated to the appointment automation system. Receptionist or secretary need to help the client or person who wants to make appointment to make appointment in the appointment automation system. Receptionist or secretary is the person who operates the appointment automation system. In this type of appointment, client or person who wants to make appointment are can't directly operate the appointment system, they need assistance from receptionist or secretary. This system just can be use in that specific area or local area only. Below is the diagram of non web based appointment automation system - type 2:
In second type of non web based appointment automation system, the client or person who wants to make appointment give permission to operate the appointment automation system. A non web based appointment just can implement at the particular or local area only. So the client or person who wants to make appointment need to go that particular place or area to using this appointment automation system. The client or person who wants to make appointment no need to interact with the receptionist or secretary in this type of appointment automation system. It may reduce the conflict between the client or person who wants to make appointment and the receptionist or secretary. Client or person who wants to make appointment can feel to interact and communicate to overview with the appointment automation system.
Web based Appointment Automation System
In web based appointment automation system, client or person who wants to make appointment can using or operate the appointment automation system over the internet. Client or person who wants to make appointment can using this system in their home or office. Client or person who wants to make appointment can save their time or cost not to go to the hospital if they want to make appointment with the doctor because they can access the system over the internet at their office or home. Thus, client or person who wants to make appointment no need have face to face interaction with the receptionist or secretary when they make appointment. Client or person who wants to make appointment can access the system anytime and anywhere provided they have internet access. Web based appointment automation system is more ease to use and convenient to the client.
Below are the screen shot of HSC Medical Center Appointment System:
HSC Medical Center Appointment System ( HSC Medical Center, 2010)
This system is web based appointment automation system does not have any ID and password to log-in before making any appointment, but the appointment is valid within 24 hours only. The user has to complete the form and click the submit button to finalize the appointment.
Technology Requirement for Appointment Automation System
There are several tools needed to develop appointment automation system. Below are the main or important that need to be included in appointment automation system.
Owner Side's Technology
Appointment automation system server
Appointment automation system server develops to operate appointment automation system. This server is playing a role as a server dedicated to running certain software applications. This server is to running the appointment automation system software. Without this tool, the appointment automation system cannot operate or run.
Web server (if web based appointment automation system)
Web server needed to be develops for purpose of online or web based application. A web server is important tool if we want make the appointment automation system to online system or web based system. Web server is to deliver content such as web pages, using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), over the World Wide Web (WWW).
Desktop computer or laptop with web browser (if web based appointment automation system)
A desktop computer or laptop is for receptionist or secretary and person in-charge to operating or running the appointment automation system. This tool is for user interact the appointment automation system GUI or interface. Users done all the process of appointment automation system with communicate and interact with GUI or interface provided by the system.
Client Side's Technology
Desktop computer or laptop with web browser
Client side must have a desktop computer or laptop with web browser to access the appointment automation system GUI or interface. This tool is to for client interact with the GUI to operate or using the appointment automation system. Client just interact with the GUI while the process is done in the server
Client side must have internet access to connect with web server and application of appointment automation system. Internet is a bridge to connect the client and the appointment automation system. Internet access make the client can access the appointment automation system anytime and anywhere.
Example of Vendor To Sell This Technology
Dell has empowered countries, communities, customers and people everywhere to use their technology for more than 26 years (Dell, 2010). Dell sell desktop, laptop, server, printer and others product to their customer. Dell not only target on home user, Dell also provide services or solutions for small and medium business, public sector and large enterprise.
Dell provides good onsite and offsite customer services to their customer. Dell target customer market not only at Malaysia but also at other Asia Pacific countries and Middle East Countries.
Below image are products sell by Dell. There are server, laptop and Desktop.
Server Laptop Desktop
HP is supplier for computers product. They sell server, laptop and desktop. HP supply products to home user, small businesses and enterprise level customer. HP also provide quality service to customer.
Below image is products sell by HP. There are server, laptop and Desktop
Server Laptop Desktop
Implementation of Appointment Automation System
The implementation is the execution, carrying out, any design for doing something or practice of a plan, a method. In implementation of appointment automation system is about process of automate schedule appointments and problems faced in real environment
Process Of Automate Schedule Appointments
There are few steps of process flow of automate schedule appointment:
Step 1 : Client make appointment
Client makes appointment by choosing a suitable time and date from the calendar. The calendar information will be get from the database. The calendar database will store all the calendar information of the all the appointment transaction.
Step 2 : Schedule appointment to the calendar
The appointment transaction will be schedule and store to the calendar database. The appointment confirmation will be send to client (optionally). For some of the scheduling software, the double booking cannot be made. All of these appointment rules is based on different business needs by the company. Every company will different on their appointment rule to organize the appointment.
Step 3: Arrangement of appointment
The person who in-charge of the appointment will arrange the venue and other thing need by the particular appointment based on the calendar time and date.
Step 4: The successful of the appointment
Client will come for appointment based on the calendar time and date and the venue. The appointment successful made.
The step of automate schedule appointment is always less than the step of manual schedule appointment. The automate schedule appointment has reduce the difficult step of the manual schedule appointment. Automate schedule is easy and simple than the manual schedule appointment.
Problems Faced in Real Environment
Although appointment automation system is very useful and helpful in automate schedule appointment. There are still got problems when the appointment automation system is implementing in real environment. Below are the possible problem faced in real environment:
Client may make some mistake when using appointment automation system to make appointment. Client may wrong booking the time or venue or wrong person of the appointment. The wrong transaction information will be record when this human mistake had been made.
Client Break An Appointment
The problem will happen when the client breaks the appointment. This is one of problem cannot be solve eliminate when appointment automation system being implement in real environment.
Client Late To Appointment
The whole process of the appointment will be late and delay if one of the client late to the appointment. This problem will make other client wait more long time and the whole schedule timetable will be affected if the client is very late to the appointment. There are many reason why the client late to the appointment. The reasons will be traffic jam or the client forgets the time of the appointment. This problem cannot be avoided from real environment.
Server Down Or failure
The application server may down or failure. This problem is possible happen in real environment. The problem is unpredictable in the real environment. We just can make the possibility to happen this problem to lowest.
Other Features of Appointment Automation System
This feature remains a popular way to send reminder. This is a highly effective method of notifying clients, students, patients and customer of upcoming appointments. Nowadays, this is the preferred form of communication among many of us in both out personal and professionals lives. In 21 century world, there are many people have email for communication even for personal use and enterprise use.
SMS Text Message Reminder
SMS can be saying as the most popular way for communication in 21 century world. Students, enterprise or home user also have mobile phone or cell phone with SMS service as their communication tool. Text message reminder can be effective than email reminders. Mobile phone or cell phones are easy to carry to anywhere wherever we go, which increase probability that will receive the reminder in timely manner.
Summary of Appointment Automation System
Record-Keeping and Reporting
The manual methods of managing and tracking appointments and patient information usually require the acupuncture practice to keep various folders, files, spreadsheets and databases. Gathering this information from these sources for reports, analysis and other users can be time-consuming and tedious. Appointment-scheduling software securely collects and maintains this important information in one centralized location, making it easy for practitioners and their staff to access and view. Additionally, some system providers offer standard reports that are easy for the user to customize and create.
Like most businesses, many acupuncturists tap into the power of the Internet to market their services to current and past patients. Scheduling software applications lets them easily manage and export their e-mail list. Additionally, including the scheduler link in newsletters, e-mails and other communication can help increase the number of appointments set, especially when referenced in discounts, coupons and other promotional pieces.
As the old saying goes, "Time is money." Manually booking reservations can take up a lot of time, especially when answering the phone and inputting appointment details into a paper appointment book or electronic calendar. Online scheduling software frees up valuable time and lets staff members focus more on their patients and services.
Unlike traditional software applications restricted to an individual computer or network, Web-based online scheduling applications are available from any Internet connection. This benefits both acupuncturists and patients: Practitioners can access their scheduler from locales outside the office, while patients can schedule and manage their appointments at their own convenience and at any time of day, not just during business hours.
Current and prospective patients expect convenient online services. Not providing these could put an acupuncturist at a disadvantage, especially if competitors offer it.
Although time-consuming and tedious, accurate scheduling of client appointments is a necessary task at acupuncture practices. And it's one that practitioners can easily automate, streamline and improve with online appointment-scheduling software.
Another advantage of online appointment-scheduling software is the ability to manage appointments and staff at multiple locations, a feature that's not available in Google Calendar. A business or organization would have to create a separate calendar for each of its offices, sites and other locations. To centralize scheduling and client information, a merging of the calendar data would be necessary, which can be a difficult and time-consuming task. Â
Based on current technology, there is still unable to automate all the desired tasks. Some of the task may need human input to operate so the process cannot fully automated
Unpredictable development costs
A automate system may need a lot of research costs and development. The development cost of automating a process may also exceed the cost saved by the automation itself. The development cost may bring negative value if the development to high and unpredictable.
High initial cost.
The automation of a new product may requires a huge initial investment in comparison with the unit cost of the product, although the cost of automation is spread in many product batches
Example of a Case Study
Case study: Meden Vale Medical Practice, Ashfield and Mansfield District Primary Care Trusts
Gateway reference 4588
Meden Vale Medical Practice, part of Mansfield and Ashfield PCT, is a rural practice in the heart of what was once a thriving mining community and is now one of unemployment, deprivation and poor health, with obesity prevalence running at 23 per cent compared to a nationwide average of 16 per cent.
In less than two years the medical practice has turned around its patient access system and developed to become a one-stop shop. Jackie Jones is the practice manager and a partner at Meden Vale. She says, 'when we first looked at the appointment system, we were booked up six weeks in advance with no flexibility on the day, so any emergencies had to be fitted in and the doctor had to be here until 8pm.'
In consultation with staff and its pro-active patient forum the practice decided it had three broad categories of demand:
Patients who had seen the GP and been asked to return in a month's time;
Patients who were unwell in the morning and wanted an appointment that day;
Patients whose condition was an emergency.
'We introduced a three-tier system,' says Jackie. 'We made 50 per cent of appointments pre-bookable up to eight weeks. The first hour of each GP surgery is pre-bookable. If a patient comes into see the doctor and he says he wants to review them in four weeks he gives them a slip of paper to hand to reception to book that. The second hour of the surgery we saved for the same-day appointments and emergency appointments are available at the end of each GP's surgery.'
The practice also has a nurse prescriber who runs a triage session and if the same-day appointments are filled, patients can see her instead. On one morning a fortnight the practice opens at 7.30am specifically for working people and there is a phlebotomist on hand to take blood samples if necessary. 'We decided on early morning rather than after 6pm because secondary care services are easily accessible then,' says Jackie.
Mansfield and Ashfield PCT access facilitator Sue Chadburn has high praise for Meden Vale. 'They are always looking at different ways of improving things,' she says.
The practice received £150,000 of government funding in 2003 to become a one-stop shop and now the PCT supplies a physiotherapist, a dietician, a podiatry service and a paediatric speech and language therapist. A local disability support group also comes in once a week to advise on benefits.
Services to local nursing homes have been streamlined with a GP setting aside Monday each week to visit patients in the homes. This has saved calls for visits throughout the week.
However, Jackie says access is constantly monitored and may change according to the season and demand.
(Department Of Health, 2010)
How Appointment Automation System Link to Final Year Project
My Final Year Project (FYP) title is medical support system. I would like to apply the appointment automation system as appointment module to my FYP.
Medical support system is a system that support and try to computerize the process in hospital. Making appointment with doctor for surgery, consult and etc is one of the process in hospital. The manual appointment book used by the clerk or admin staff in hospital was time consuming and cannot provide full information of each appointment transaction.
Appointment automation system can turn the manual appointment book to the automated system for scheduling the computerized appointment, computerized booking reservation and reporting. This function very difficult to done by a human manual work.
My FYP appointment module can show the schedule of the doctor to preview, show the available time slot for patient to make appointment and patient can cancel the appointment. Concept of appointment automation system can fulfill all the function of my appointment module.
As a conclusion, appointment automation system can provide accurate scheduling to the small business or hospital. Appointment automation system has the ability to efficiently and quickly schedule and manage appointments.
Although the appointment process seems simple enough, accepting and recording appointments and customer information but it also can be a tedious and time consuming task. Especially to the business owner, operator or staff members rely on paper appointment books and customers phoning in their appointments and reservations.
The advance technologies can turn entire tedious and time consuming task to the automated system which is easy managed and control.