We often hear of practices who assume providing direct scheduling will result in better patient access and thus, a reduction in no-shows. However, we cannot find any credible studies that indicate that direct scheduling improves patient access, what we have surmised is that direct scheduling changes the how patients access care however, it does not increase their frequency to access care.
New patients no-show at a higher rate than established patients
New patients do not yet have a reason to be attached to a specific office. They haven’t experienced the warmth of the staff, the care of the nurses, and the insightfulness of the physicians. To a new patient, an office is still just a name on a page. This is not unique to healthcare, it’s a concept well studied in behavioral economics called the Endowment Effect.
The Endowment Effect: People pay more/value more something they already possess, like a relationship with a doctor. Without that relationship, the value isn’t as high. It’s why you see so many businesses like Warby Parker or Casper mattresses offer free returns within the first 30-60 days of having their product. They know that once they get the products in your hands you will value it more and be very unlikely to return them.
New patient no-shows are more painful financially
New patients do not just have a higher initial appointment value. They also have a higher lifetime value. Once a patient is in the practice they will keep coming back year after year. So, when they no-show they represent a much greater loss in revenue.
The easier it is for patients to direct schedule, the higher the no-show rate will be. Many practices are turning to direct scheduling in an effort to improve patient access. It changes the way patients access the schedule, but doesn’t always improve it. Often times it’s actually faster to book on the phone, hence why implementing online scheduling actually INCREASES the number of phone calls to a call center by 24%.
It should be decreasing it!
Literature is very poor as to the actual usage of online scheduling, it’s an incredibly hard stat to find.
However, if an appointment becomes very easy to book online, then a patient can book online everywhere very easily. Patients can often make multiple appointments for multiple providers and no-show all but one. Direct scheduling software does not preclude this.
In addition, the difficulty in creating an appointment, actually leads to fewer no-shows. Now, don’t go nuts here, but “switching costs” can help explain the concept. Switching costs
states the more expensive it is to move to a competitor, the less likely a customer is to move. So if a patient has to work a bit harder, ie an appointment is more expensive to make in terms of time, the patient is likely to go elsewhere.