Patient no-shows and last-minute cancellations have an impact on any practice no matter the size. Unfortunately, it’s fairly common, and incredibly frustrating especially when you have scheduled and prepped for an appointment. Aside from the wasted time and gaps in your day, cancellations and no-shows have a direct impact on your revenue. A loss that adds up if you don’t have strategies in place to reduce missed appointments.
It’s important to take note of the reasons why patients fail to arrive for their appointments. The usual excuses like traffic, unexpected delays and double bookings are often rooted in the 3 F’s: fear, finances and forgetting.
Fear is a very real reason why some patients don’t show up for appointments. The embarrassment of not following a doctor’s orders or putting off seeing the doctor can be difficult to explain. Not to mention the fear of getting bad news. For some patients avoiding the conversation altogether is better than facing their fears. As we get older certain procedures can cause some level of anxiety in patients. It is important that these healthcare-related fears and addressed with patient education.
The most common reason patients don’t arrive for their sessions is money. It’s often less embarrassing to simply not show up than to explain that they can’t afford the consultation. Nobody likes to talk about money, but it is important to have a conversation about money needs at the time that the appointment is booked. A frank gentle conversation might mean that some patients will not book an appointment, but at least you know up front and won’t waste time on late cancellations or no-shows. Take the time to train your staff to be open about your fees, the medical aids you accept and your payment policy.
It is easy to forget an appointment that is outside of your normal routine. We all have busy lives and are often rushing from one appointment to the next. It is important to make sure that you have an effective way of reminding patients of their upcoming appointments.
Now that we understand why patients might not arrive for their appointments, lets have a look at ways you can prevent cancellations and no-shows in your practice.
1 :: Send Appointment Reminders
It seems so simple, but practices are more likely to reach patients via text message or email than by phone. Most people these days screen their calls and during the day many people have their phones on silent. While a courtesy call is not a bad idea, it does take up staff time and resources. The ability to send out automated appointment reminders will help patients to remember their appointments.
2 :: Have a Cancellation Policy
While there are mixed opinions on whether it is a good idea to charge a fee for late cancellations and no-shows. A cancellation policy can reduce the impact that missed appointments have on your revenue. Regardless of whether you charge for missed appointments or not, every practice should have a cancellation policy in place that explains the penalties for late cancellations and no-shows. This policy should be included in your terms and conditions and signed by every patient. Included in your cancellation policy should be the acceptable notification period for a client to cancel or reschedule an appointment.
3 :: Follow up After a Cancellation or No-Show
Reaching out to patients who’ve missed appointments is beneficial for two reasons: one, they have the opportunity to reschedule so that they don’t fall behind on their treatment plan & two, your staff might start to notice trends or even processing errors that could be addressed to reduce no shows.
By implementing these few strategies and understanding why a patient might miss an appointment you can drastically reduce the number of no-shows. While this will not prevent all cancellations it will help to reduce the number and assist you in keeping track of clients that regularly miss appointments. Once you have identified the clients that do regularly miss appointments. You could find out more about what is keeping them from making their appointments & offer a solution