8 Easy Ways to Reduce Patient No-Shows in Your Office
Patient no-shows are a consistent source of frustration for all healthcare providers. It’s the medical equivalent of getting stood up. And if you’re like most people, you don’t like getting stood up.
Unfortunately, patient no-shows aren’t just about time wasted. They’re also about lost revenue for healthcare organizations. In fact, it costs the healthcare sector over $150 billion in lost revenue annually.
And for the single physician practice, that’s at least $150k in lost revenues every year. As you can see, those are very expensive actions.
To put it simply, when patients don’t show up for their appointments, the organization suffers. And we don’t want that. So, what can you do to reduce these incidents? The following tips should help:
Set Up an Effective Reminder System
This should be an automated reminder system that sends multiple reminders at specified intervals. The first reminder should be scheduled to go out 14 days before the appointment.
Followed by 7 days, 5 days, 3 days and 1 day reminders. So, a total of five reminders. To make it effective, request an acknowledgment of some sort.
This will help you make sure they’re getting your messages. This way, you can avoid and drastically reduce no-shows. More importantly, you’ll be able to properly plan your schedule to reduce unscheduled provider capacity.
One key factor of an effective reminder system is capturing multiple contact details to enable multiple methods of communication with your patients. Most healthcare providers already have this in place, but we’d like to reinforce it as a best practice. Having multiple patient contact details will increase the effectiveness of your patient appointment reminders.
For instance, some patients don’t check their emails until late in the evening or weekends. Some hardly check them at all.
This is why you need both their emails and phone numbers. This way, if they don’t get the email, they’ll at least get your SMS messages and phone calls when necessary. The simple truth is people may not always be in their email, but odds are they are very attentive to their phones. Sending reminders via multiple channels increases the likelihood the message is received and acknowledged.
Also, it’s important to send reminders to patients when they’re most likely to see them. So, schedule reminders for early in the morning or later in the evening, which is when people generally are more available. Test various times and days to ascertain the best times for your patients.
Use On-Demand Schedule Management Tools
Schedule management solutions automate the process of managing a waitlist, recapturing no-shows, and rescheduling bumped appointments.
This is particularly great for patients who want to be seen earlier. Systems like this help ensure that patients who cancel or don’t show up, get rescheduled for another time of their own choosing. And those who want to be seen, get in as early as possible.
It also lowers the rate of unscheduled provider capacity, where the healthcare provider is available but doesn’t have a patient scheduled.
Encourage Pre-Appointment Payments
Many health systems don’t do this, but it’s worth considering. Allow patients the opportunity to prepay right after booking their appointments.
This will give them more incentive to show up for their appointments. Most people are more than willing to go for their doctor’s appointment if they’ve made some sort of financial commitment.
Of course, we’re not saying you should make this mandatory, just make sure they’re aware of the option.
Schedule Appointments on the Basis of Availability
Here’s the truth: the odds of canceling that appointment are higher if the patient has to wait a long time between when the appointment is set and when the appointment takes place.
Unless they specifically request a time frame, make sure that they can see you as quickly as possible. However, pay attention to their convenience too as patients who pick a convenient time, are more likely to show up than those who don’t.
So, as soon as they express an interest in booking an appointment, ask them when the best time would be. While you should endeavor to get them in as quickly as possible, maintain a healthy balance between that and their comfort.
Provide Transportation Assistance
An estimated 67 percent of patients who don’t show up for their appointments attribute it to a lack of transportation. That’s about 3.6 million individuals every year.
So, here’s what you can do: schedule a ride for them, or connect them to a local patient transport service to pick them up and drop them off at your office.
When you consider that just one organization with multiple providers can have upwards of 14,000 no-shows every year, you can see how important sorting their transportation can be.
Providing transportation assistance may not make sense for your specific organization, but it could be worth considering if a significant number of patients indicate a lack of transportation as their reason for not showing up.
Reach Out to Past No-Shows and Ask for Reasons
A survey should help with this. When they provide reasons, see if you can do anything to solve those problems. Sometimes, patient no-shows are as a result of uncontrollable circumstances.
Maybe something came up. Whatever the case, reach out and ask them if there’s anything you can do to help them make their appointments.
Sometimes, patients cancel because their symptoms have resolved. Others do because they found a better date than you were offering or couldn’t find childcare.
There are a thousand and one reasons why they may have canceled. Just make sure that you’re not directly responsible for them not showing up. And if you are, do something quickly to remedy the situation.
Cut Back on Your Waiting Period
Did you know that every time patients sit around in your waiting room, it costs them about $43? When you combine that time with their commute time, the amount spent goes up to at least $75.
Do you now understand why some folks don’t keep their doctor’s appointment? Time and money “wasted” like that isn’t appealing to anyone. This is why you need to shorten their waiting room time, without compromising on the quality of care of course.
When patients show up, make sure they are seen as quickly as possible. When people know that they will be attended to within 15 minutes of walking in, you’ll stand out.
Some healthcare organizations have an average waiting room time of 20 minutes. Many have long waiting room times, which comes at a cost to providers, too. Dare to be different by setting up processes that will ensure that patients are seen within 15 minutes of a walk-in.
With the average healthcare appointment requiring an average of 121 minutes, you would do well to help your patients save time.
Provide Incentives for Prompt Patients
Most people cannot resist bargains or special offers. So, see if there are ways to incentivize show ups. And when they do show up, simple appreciation efforts can go a long way in getting them to come back.
Some providers make sure to send their patients personal get well soon and thank you cards. Others provide a discount. You can also give them a gift or a reward card.
These steps will show that you appreciate their keeping the appointment and engender more loyalty on their part.
Are There Other Effective Ways to Curb No-Shows?
The aforementioned tips go a long way to reducing the number of patient no-shows you see. But, if you need some more, apply a penalty for missing their appointments. Some providers have a nominal no-show charge of $25-$35. You set yours as you see fit.
If you’re interested in seeing our Autonomous Patient Access Solution, which has been proven to reduce no-shows by 50%, contact us for a demo.