Doctor waiting for a patient that missed their appointment

Strategies for mitigating common reasons for missed appointments

If you work in health services, managing patient schedules in a timely manner is crucial for a well-structured workday. However, patients who are running late or miss appointments altogether can eat into available time, as well as the revenue your office brings in.

Reasons Your Patients Miss Appointments

1. Forgetfulness

It won't surprise you that forgetfulness tops the list--in a 2018 study, 37% of participants stated that they had either forgotten about their appointment, or they did not realize they had one scheduled at all. This is especially common in healthcare settings where appointments may be scheduled months in advance. Between scheduling and the actual day of appointment, there's plenty of time for it to slip the patient's mind. In these cases, no shows are common, which doesn't leave your office enough time to call patients on your waitlist to fill the open slot, leading to more lost revenue.

2. Transportation Issues

Sometimes, getting there is half the battle, and for patients who rely on public transit or a shared car, this can ring especially true. When patients have to coordinate with a friend or family member for a ride to healthcare providers, scheduling becomes more difficult. Whether they realize they have an appointment too late, or their arranged ride falls through, transportation can be a major factor that impacts patient attendance. Even for patients who have their own vehicle, breakdowns, unexpected traffic, or difficulty finding parking can all contribute to missed appointments and the the hassle of rescheduling.

3. Personal Health Issues

Unsurprisingly, patient health is often a factor in appointment attendance. Sometimes, a sick patient might make a scheduled appointment at the first signs of illness, only for their condition to worsen, leaving them bedridden and unable to attend their primary care clinics. In other cases, unexpected illnesses or unrelated injuries, like slip and falls, may leave a patient with limited mobility or energy and unable to make it to their scheduled appointments.

4. External Obligations

In today's busy world, balancing work and life obligations with health care and other self care needs can be challenging for many people. For some, routine care for a family member or an unexpected health crisis for a parent can interfere with a scheduled appointment. In a 2019 study, impromptu work engagements were also cited as a concern for some patients who missed appointments. The chance to make extra money, or the pressure to make a good impression on their boss, can lead patients to prioritize last-minute work obligations over their scheduled health care appointments.

5. Difficulty With Healthcare Systems

For some patients, navigating the complications of health care can be confusing or frustrating enough that they skip appointments entirely. For some patients, this may take the form of dreading hours spent sitting in waiting rooms, waiting for the relevant provider to be free to see them. For others, financial difficulties and costly copays may lead to them missing appointments. And for others still, lapsed insurance from the loss of a job or a change in situation may make it fiscally impossible for them to pay for an appointment they had scheduled in the past.

Helping Your Patients With Appointment Adherence

While your healthcare practice can't prevent car breakdowns or foresee patient health issues, you can take a few concrete steps to improve clinic performance and reduce the number of patients missing their appointments. Here's a few of our recommendations for improving patient attendance and reducing no shows.

Send Appointment Reminders

As you saw above, simple forgetfulness is a major contributor to missed appointments. The simplest way to combat this problem is with an automated appointment reminder software that lets you contact patients via email, text, and phone. Reaching patients via their preferred mode of communication a few days before their appointment helps them remember effectively. It also gives patients who have to manage other factors, like childcare, job PTO, or transportation, enough time to make sure they have everything lined up so they can attend their scheduled healthcare services.

Streamline Waiting Room Management

If your healthcare system struggles with patient wait time, anything you can do to improve patient communication can be beneficial. For example, on a day that is running at capacity, you can use your automated appointment reminder software to notify patients of longer-than-normal wait times. You may also consider implementing an active wait queue in your waiting room, so patients can be aware of where they fall in order of service. In your appointment reminders, consider stressing on-time appointment attendance, as one delayed patient can create a chain reaction that creates delays for everyone on a given day.

Implement a Waitlist Function to Optimize Your Schedule

Even with well-implemented appointment reminders, you'll have patients who have to cancel their appointments because of an unforeseen issue. In these cases, using a waitlist function can help you contact clients who might be interested in attending your practice sooner than their scheduled patients miss appointments.

Setting up a waitlist is simple--you just add scheduled patients under their type of appointment. When an appointment of a similar type opens up, you can automatically contact waitlist members via text, notifying them of the new opening in your schedule. Once someone has claimed the opening, you can notify waitlist members that it has been filled, and in just a matter of minutes, you've filled an unexpected schedule opening that would have otherwise cost you money.

Reduce No Shows and Missed Appointments With Reminderly

You can help your patients show up on time and ready for their healthcare services by sending them automated appointment reminders with Reminderly. This simple but powerful platform lets you send custom reminders via email, phone, and sms. It also has a waitlist function to enhance your schedule management, and it makes it easy to collect customer feedback after their appointments. Get started today with a no-risk trial, or drop us a line with any questions about how Reminderly can integrate with your healthcare system.

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