On a typical day, you check your schedule and plan your day accordingly. The first patient walks in, checks out. Second patient walks in, checks out. You call in for the next patient. Guess what, the patient never made it to the appointment. The patient is a NO SHOW without prior notice. The rate of no show visits varies from 10% to 60% across the country. That’s a very big number to consider, adding to lost revenue and time.
The restaurant paradigm
According to a study, many restaurants now charge consumers for missing a reservation. It suggests that there is a 3% to 5% margin drop involved in missed reservations. The story is not that different in medical practices. No shows eat up your time and dollars. Each missed visit is a waste of essential time that could have been used for other patients calling in, requesting to be seen that day. Sure you may be lucky enough to have a walk-in patient at the time of no show but it’s unlikely.
Managing no shows
Many practices resort to scheduling multiple appointments for a particular time slot, so if there is a no show the time is made up for. But this causes delays when the scheduled patients do show up. It’s a common technique but patients suffer through loss of their time. So, how does one fix this? A few thoughts.
In most of the cases, the follow up visits are scheduled on the same day the patient had first come for a visit. Evaluating whether the follow up visit is absolutely required, the time span between visits can lead to cleaner scheduling, lesser confusion and lower patient wait times.
Patient suggested appointment time
According to a survey by University of Missouri that looked at 11,000 scheduled patient visits, patients who suggested the most convenient time for an appointment were more likely to show up. When patients suggest a time they are more likely to take into account their personal commitments and less likely to miss the appointment under any excuse.
Online appointment scheduling
Encourage patients to use your patient portal. This gives them the liberty of scheduling appointments themselves. It’s a time and effort saver. Patients, while scheduling their appointments, are more responsible and more likely to make it to the visit. This also reduces the chores of your staff.
Have patient visit reminder protocols. Setup processes to call patients one or two days prior to the appointment. This can be done manually by the staff or by using customized automated calling systems.
Cancellation and No Show Policy
After carrots, comes the stick. But it aligns very well with taking proactive steps to better manage no shows and cancellations. Build a simple and precise cancellation and no show policy. It needs to clearly reflect consequences of not notifying the cancellation or no shows beforehand. You might avoid using it for a patient’s first no-show, or waive it if a no-show patient becomes upset and promises to do better next time. Frame the policy at obvious places in your practice that are bound to get a patient’s attention – typically waiting areas and front-desk.
Try any of the methods or come up with some of your own. Reducing missed appointments improves your practice’s bottom line and helps with a more seamless workflow.