Three ways to stop patient no-shows and improve patient access.
They say “all good things are worth the wait” except in the case of medical appointments. Long patient wait times can be both financially risky for you and clinically risky for your patients. In fact, shortening your patient wait times is the number one way to stop patient no-shows and improve patient satisfaction. Want to know just how impactful a long patient wait time can be for patient no-shows?
“For every one day of wait time,” says NCBH President and CEO Linda Rosenberg, “you lose 1 percent of the patients — so if you have a 21-day wait, 21 percent of the patients seeking care just will give up and not show up.”Source: Chicago Tribune
Earlier this year, our partner athenahealth, performed an analysis of over 4.2 million patient appointments and found a direct correlation between patient wait times and appointment cancellation rates. This is the most comprehensive study of patient appointments we have come across. Most studies have a 1,000 patients to pull from, not 4.2 million!
Here are our two favorite quotes from this eye-opening study by athenahealth that highlights, the best way to stop patient no-shows is to get patients appointments now.
Shorter Wait Times is The Number One Way to Stop Patient No-Shows
“An analysis of 4.2 million appointments scheduled in 2016 by 13,000 providers found that shorter appointment lead times can be critical to getting new patients in the door.”
Very elegantly put. Patient wait times or appointment lead times, as the study calls them, are critical to focus on. New patients wait, on average, over three weeks to see their doctor. New patients are the lifeblood of a medical office because they represent potential life time customers. It’s a such a focal point for health systems, that The Definitive Guide to Patient Access is our second most frequently downloaded guide. The first? The Definitive Guide to Patient No-Shows.
The Impact of No Shows, How Long a Wait is Too Long?
“On average, a new patient who waits more than a month for a first appointment is more than twice as likely to cancel and not reschedule as a new patient who is scheduled within a week.”Source
Specifically, if the wait for a patient appointment is 1 month long, there is a 1 in 3 chance that the patient never comes into the office. Whether your focus is to reduce patient no-shows or stop patient cancellations, that should scare you.
So What Can You Do to Shorten Patient Wait Time?
For the purpose of decreasing patient no shows here are three things you can do to shorten the patient wait time:
- Reminders, reminding patients of upcoming appointments is a common and critical component to reduce no-shows. Automated appointment reminders are a simple tool to incorporate into your medical organization. If you cannot afford automated appointment reminders create a daily task for your admin staff to call patients with an upcoming appointment.
- Templating, creating a scheduling template that allows providers to use their time efficiently creates more opportunities for patients to be seen each day. The more patients a provider can efficiently care for each day, the shorter your wait time will be.
- Schedule balancing, enabling patients to be seen by multiple providers allows the busiest providers to offload some of their less desirable appointment types to the providers who have a more open schedule. There are medical practice management solutions available that make patient/provider sharing easy to manage.
In 2018, health systems using QueueDr helped their patients shorten their wait time by 3,600 years. If each day represents a 1% decrease in a patient no-show, that’s 13,000 no-shows that were stopped. Whether you utilize QueueDr’s autonomous patient access solution with automated appointment reminders or not, we recommend reading our guide to patient access as a start.