Reducing Patient No-Shows
It’s no secret that missed appointments are a source of frustration to every practice. From the wasted preparation time to the lost revenue, a no-show can throw off the flow of your practice. Whatever the cause, from lack of transportation to forgetfulness or financial issues, you will reduce the number of patient no-shows in your office by trying the following tips.
Make Daily Reminder Calls
Designate a staff member to make reminder calls each afternoon for the next day’s appointments. It can be a good idea to request that patients let you know if they can’t make it, and remind them that you would appreciate the ability to offer the time slot to someone else if they know they won’t be able to come in. This will prompt a timely cancellation rather than last-minute patient no-shows. When you get a patient on the phone and have verbal confirmation from them, they are less likely to no-show.
Some Patients Need Extra Reminders
Some patients like to get a reminder at a specific time, outside of when you typically make your daily reminder calls. Even if you call them the day before some patients just won’t remember. For these patients, calling the morning of their appointment or even an hour or two prior will negate them becoming a no-show. This may seem like a lot of extra hand-holding, but the small effort it takes you to make an extra call is worth not losing the income from a missed appointment. Some patients may know this about themselves and request a reminder at a certain time. Or when you notice certain patients always forget appointments, suggest trying this strategy to them and watch how it will decrease your patient no-shows rate.
Set Up Automated Reminders
Using an automated notification service to send secure text or email appointment reminders are not only serves to jog their memory, but is also a thoughtful step that improves patient loyalty. It provides an additional avenue for reaching patients, and if you have a day when making reminder calls is not feasible, you’ll still have your bases covered if you have automated reminders in place. Automated reminders can save both time and money over the manual system you may be using.
Reduce Waiting Time
As busy as people are these days, asking a patient to wait 20 to 40 minutes or more for an appointment will increase the likelihood of them opting out of future appointments. If patients don’t feel you value their time, they are less likely to value yours. This is how a no-show turns into a lost patient.
Ask Preferred Follow Up Method
When patients initially schedule appointments, ask them which method or methods of contact they prefer. Do they have a home phone number? A cell phone number? Do they want a phone call or a text message? Or would they prefer receiving an email reminder? You can ask patients for their preferred method as well as their additional method of contact to make it as easy as possible to prevent them from becoming a no-show.
Keep a Wait List
Keep a current and specific wait list so that you have options to fill in the gaps. You may want to include the days and times patients are available, and if they are close enough to your practice to take an appointment with short notice. If you do have a no-show, you can refer to this list to fill the time slot and not lose income.
Don’t Wait to Reschedule Your No-Shows
Rescheduling patient no-shows after they occur is not a technique to prevent them from happening in the first place. However, the fact that you made an effort to reach out in person to check on the patient shows care and concern and establishes the kind of personal connection that will make them less likely to no-show next time. Patients who miss an appointment will often make an effort to ensure they don’t skip the next one.
Be Proactive with Your Schedule
Almost every practice has that one patient who shows up late for every appointment, every time. Like clockwork, they stroll in the door after their appointment time has passed by, still expecting to be seen. Rather than repeat this pattern every time, punishing them with no-show fees or turning them away from care because you are already with the next patient, you can choose to proactively manage the scheduling of these patients.
Have a Written Policy
Standard operating procedure should be that a patient reads and signs a missed appointment policy along with the other new patient paperwork at their first visit. Posting a sign at the front desk with this policy can also be helpful. That way, no one can claim they didn’t know about the ramifications of no-showing for an appointment.
Strong Patient Relationships
You have year-round opportunities to cement the relationship you have with your patients. Sending birthday and holiday wishes is one method, but offering ongoing information through your website or patient portal is another. You can also use a patient newsletter to keep patients current on events in your office as well as offer healthcare tips they can use immediately. When patients feel valued, when they feel that you take an interest in them individually, they are considerably less likely to become a no-show.
Decreasing patient no-shows can be tricky at times, but the above-mentioned tips can go a long way toward minimizing the problem.
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