Patients missed their appointments so the waiting room is empty

Missing Out on Care: Understanding and Addressing Patient No-Shows

If you work in any medical office where scheduled appointments are a regular part of your day-to-day, then you're surely familiar with the dreaded no show. It's five, then ten, then 15 minutes late, then time to call the patient and check in about their missed appointment. In an ideal scenario, you can find a time for them to reschedule and manage any frustration calmly to retain a loyal patient. In a worst case scenario, frustrated patients could leave negative reviews, find another competing service, and spread bad word of mouth.

Why Patients Miss Appointments

Patient no shows happen because of multiple factors--transportation issues, conflicting events, and sheer forgetfulness in the midst of a busy schedule. A 2020 study also points to factors like childcare, financial burden of healthcare, and transportation or weather related difficulties. For sectors of the healthcare industry that can be anxiety-inducing (such as bloodwork or radiology), patient fear can also play a role in missed appointments.

Why No Show Rates Matter For Healthcare Providers

While missed appointments are a natural part of any business, if they happen often enough, they add up to lost revenue for your medical practice. The average no show rate can vary based on field and target audience, with some healthcare organizations reporting no shows as high as 30% for in-person visits.

For most medical practices, consistently high no shows cost a chunk of vital income, and it's important to reduce patient no shows. While measures like a no show fee can help offset the lost revenue from no shows, it can also impact patient satisfaction and force patients who have financial underlying reasons for their missed appointments to pull together money, making it even harder for them to seek the care they need.

How to Effectively Respond When Patients No Show

1. Outline a Clear Cancellation Policy

Cancellation policies vary wildly across practices. Some require less than 24 hours notice, while others may require a week; some have cancellation fees, while others don’t.  Proactive communication can keep your policy front of mind for your patients and prevent confusion. Patients prefer to be made aware of your cancellation and missed appointment policies when they book their appointment. Clearly communicating this information at booking can be done over the phone or through an automated text or email system that notifies the patients shortly after the booking.

2. Understand Why Your Patients MissAppointments

Although there are many common reasons why patients miss appointments, each practice has a different patient population. Depending on your population, you may need to address a few common reasons why patients miss appointments. Many practices try to get in front of these common issues by communicating solutions with their patients. For example, some practices who know that transportation is a limiting factor, will send a message 1 week before the appointment letting them know about transportation services. Customizing different communication messages is an effective way to reduce no shows.

3. Follow-Up With No Show Patients

Prompt follow-up with patients who have recently missed an appointment can give you insight into the topic above. This proactive approach also increases the likelihood that your patient will reschedule, instead of simply putting off their healthcare until a problem develops. This follow-up is also a chance to identify barriers to care that your clients are facing, and you may be able to find accommodations that make medical services more accessible. Follow ups can be in the form of calls but also text messages. For patients that may feel embarrassed about their missed appointments, a text message can be a less intrusive and intimidating form of communication.

4. An Escalating Cancellation Policy Can Show Compassion While Discouraging Missed Appointments

Tension can enter discussions around missed appointments. Clients are usually embarrassed and may have anxiety about their missed appointment. Though missed appointments are obviously very disruptive to the practice. Finding a balance with an escalating cancelation policy can help.  The first missed appointment may have no or a reduced fee while subsequent missed appointment can incur the full no-show fee. This also allows for grace when a patient misses an appointment because of a family emergency or chronic conditions flare-up. Early exceptions can go a long way in cultivating patient loyalty and ensuring your clients feel like they are treated as individuals, but also discourage patients from chronically cancelling, leading to lost revenue for your practice.

5. Track Patterns

An average no show rate can only tell you so much--it's also worth looking at when and where missed appointments happen. If a single health care provider accounts for the majority of missed appointments in your practice, there may be an issue with patient communication that needs to be resolved. If most of your no shows happen in a department, uncomfortable procedures or general fear of the unknown may be driving no shows. The bulk of your appointments happening in the first hour of the day? Shifting patient scheduling could be a solution to accommodate for this time window.

6. Utilize Appointment Reminders

Email, text, and phone call reminders can work wonders for reducing patient no shows and saving money for your practice. A 2019 study showed a drop of 15% in no shows when phone call reminders were implemented at a clinic. Not only do automated appointment reminders help your patients who might be forgetful--they also establish a strong line of communication with your patients, helping them address any concerns or anxieties before their appointment.

Reduce Patient No Shows With Reminderly

Ready to reduce no shows, cultivate effective patient communication, and build patient loyalty? Reminderly offers a consolidated platform where you can easily craft and send reminder calls, emails, and text messages. It integrates with common scheduling systems, allowing you to generate bulk reminder lists in a fraction of the time that making calls or sending emails would take. You can do more than just remind patients though--Reminderly offers a powerful waitlist function to fill cancellations and an automated survey offering to collect patient feedback effectively.

Learn more about Reminderly's differentiators, or calculate how much money you could be saving with our ROI calculator. Once you're ready to dive in, our free two week trial gives you full functionality at your fingertips, so you can see how seamlessly Reminderly can integrate into your workflow.

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