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Are Patients More Likely to Cancel Shorter Appointments?

We are introducing a new series of blog posts based on our analysis of 24,000 cancellations that QueueDr has seen in the last couple months. These are only cancellations and the data doesn’t include no-shows. These posts will provide insight on scheduling, optimization, patient behavior, and the crazy world of healthcare. Enjoy!

Here’s a Fun Fact: The 24,000+ cancellations we investigated added up to 437,710 minutes or roughly 2.5 work years! That got us thinking about time. Does time play a role in determining whether or not patients cancel an appointment?

Specifically, does the length of an appointment matter when a patient is deciding to cancel an appointment? We hypothesized that a patient might be more likely to cancel shorter appointments.

Worth the drive?

You can see the logic. If I live 20 minutes away from my doctor’s office, then would I drive for a 5 minute appointment? Put another way, would I drive 4x my appointment length?

What appointment lengths are most cancelled?

Looking at our data, we found that 67% of cancellations were 15 minute appointments, while 20% were 30 minute appointments. Not surprisingly, these are the most common appointment lengths! Only 2% of the cancellations were 10 minute appointments.

That gives us a breakdown to draw from, but since we don’t know the total number of appointments of each appointment length, we can’t come up with a % breakdown and can’t draw conclusions from that. So, let’s look at fill rate.

Do patients prefer a certain duration?

We found that the lowest fill rate for cancellations was for appointments that were 10 minutes in length!

One might think that patients wouldn’t want to drive to an appointment just for a 10 minute appointment, but we see that 5 minute appointments have significantly higher fill rates.

So that goes against our hypothesis that the shorter the appointment length, the lower the fill rate. In fact, when we looked at the fill rates by duration, there doesn’t seem to be any pattern. Duration doesn’t seem to factor into why a patient would cancel an appointment. Why?

What is time?

Duration isn’t just the appointment length.

But wait, there might be an explanation within our hypothesis on why duration isn’t a causal factor.

With cancellations and no-shows, it’s important to remember that the appointment length is tiny part of the time investment required for a patient. I currently live 20 minutes from my doctor. So a 10 minute appointment is actually the following

20 minute commute + 10 minutes in the waiting room (my doctor’s great about this and I always arrive early) + 5 minutes waiting for the doctor in the exam room + 10 minute appointment (really 5 minutes, but me and the doctor like to chat about running shoes) + 3 minute sign-out process (I’m an existing patient) + 20 minute commute back.

So a 10 minute appointment is actually a 68 minute commitment and I’m lucky. The actual appointment length doesn’t really matter, it’s only 15% of the total commitment.

Got to get there somehow


Don’t worry about appointment length when considering whether or not a patient will cancel. Also, have an amazing day!


Founder of QueueDr