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Step by step, the cloud is securing a place in everyday life. Via the website www.afspraken.be patients can make an appointment – in the cloud – with their general practitioner (GP), physiotherapist or dentist. Belgacom sees to it that the system is always available.
As a GP, Pieter Vanderschaeve works in a group practice in Oudenaarde. He recounts how the system of unscheduled consultation has created a heavy workload in the past: “I had no overview of my daily schedule,” he recalls. “Sometimes there were no patients but I still had to remain available. At other times, there were far too many patients at once.” Together with some colleagues, Doctor Vanderschaeve created www.afspraken.be. It’s a portal site where patients can make appointments online with various care providers: GPs, speech therapists, physiotherapists, dietitians, dentists … and, recently, a number of veterinarians have also become available via the site too.
Make appointments quickly
The principle is simple. Dr. Vanderschaeve: “The patient only has to register once. After that, it takes just three clicks to log in and make an appointment, for any member of the family.” Thanks to the system, the patient can check at any time – day or night – when the doctor is next available. Those who wish to, can include a statement on the reason for the visit when they make the appointment. “We are seeing things like people who become ill at night immediately using their smartphone or tablet to make an appointment for the next morning.” Also important: the patient can cancel the appointment online as well, so that their time slot is instantly freed up for someone else.
What started as a local initiative among a few doctors has grown into a national phenomenon in less than 10 years. Currently, 400,000 families are registered with a username and password. They can use the site to make an appointment with over 2,000 care providers. “For the patient, the convenience is what matters most,” according to Dr. Vanderschaeve. “The patient can choose the right time for a visit with no pressure, and without having to disturb the doctor. Making an appointment now takes literally just 10 seconds. In this way, the system is an extra service for the patient.” There are advantages for the care providers too. They have seen the number of telephone calls greatly reduced, which allows them to concentrate more on their core activities. They can even enter into the system themselves at what times they are available for appointments. This allows them to organize their appointments as efficiently as possible, one after another. At the same time, they have a perfect overview of the schedule for the day ahead.”
Nothing but benefits
For about five years now, the site has been hosted at a Belgacom datacenter. Last year, the site switched to a virtual environment, so that it is now run completely in the cloud. Belgacom guarantees the availability of the site. “The cloud offers a major advantage, for both the patient and the doctor,” says Dr. Vanderschaeve. “As user all you need is an Internet connection. You can use the application anywhere, any time and on any device.” For doctors and paramedical providers, the system replaces the paper calendar. But there’s more. Via the portal site they can also share messages with member colleagues. “ A GP can use the system to make an appointment for a patient with a specialist at the hospital, making that extra service a lot easier too.”
The portal site www.afspraken.be is an online appointment system for doctors, paramedical providers and patients. Some 400,000 families and 2,000 care providers already use the cloud application.
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