7 Expert Strategies to Reduce No-Show Rates
How many of us have scheduled a doctor appointment as we’re leaving our current appointment? Chances are the new appointment is set for six months to a year in advance. Sometimes it isn’t an absolute necessity but done more out of habit.
If asked, most individuals have no firm reasoning behind scheduling an appointment so far in advance. Is it hard to get in for an appointment? Is the patient being pressured to book before leaving the office?
Improving the patient experience is important, and a big part of that is improving patient access.
Several factors could play into why patients miss appointments. This is why medical offices need to implement strategies to reduce no-show rates that are fair and do not ostracize patients with valid reasons for not cancelling in advance.
Do you have a healthcare organization constantly dealing with patients who miss appointments and don’t notify your office? Here are nine strategies you can use to reduce patient appointment no-shows.
Why You Need Strategies to Reduce No-Show Rates
Patients probably never consider the cost of missing an appointment. Most probably assume healthcare providers are rolling in cash and won’t miss their money. Others may believe providers purposely overbook because they know someone isn’t going to show.
It is estimated that medical offices see an average of four missed appointments a day. Multiply that by five days a week and 52 weeks a year. You’ll soon realize that missed appointments do affect the bottom line of a health system.
We all know that things come up at the last minute. A busy family schedule or a big project at work could cause someone to completely forget about an appointment. This is why it is important for doctors to come up with solutions to help patients remember their upcoming appointments and avoid no-shows altogether.
There is no fail-proof system, but there are strategies that healthcare organizations can use to reduce no-shows significantly.
1. Create a Standard No-Show Policy
Health systems need to have in place a clear no-show policy for their patients. The policy should be given to the patient on their first visit along with registration documents and their HIPAA disclosure. If changes are made, updates should be sent out to all active patients.
The no-show policy outlines what is considered a missed appointment, cancelled appointment, and criteria for being late. Next, have a clear definition of what the policy is designed to address. Follow this up with procedures patients should follow if they need to cancel or reschedule an appointment.
At its discretion, the provider can initiate penalties for infractions. Offices must be prepared to follow through with action. Otherwise, the policy becomes effectively pointless.
Also, be sure to train staff on the policy to ensure the message is communicated consistently to patients regardless of who they are speaking with.
RELATED: Definitive Guide to No-Shows
2. Utilize Messaging Software
In today’s technology-driven industries, there is software to address almost every business need. Automated appointment reminder software can help patients remember their appointments.
Look around. Almost everyone has a cell phone or tablet. Mobile devices have made it easy for businesses to stay connected to their patient base.
With Short Message Service (SMS) your health system can send short 160 character reminder messages quickly and efficiently. An often overlooked step is to follow-up with a message reminding them of your cancellation policy.
One of the greatest benefits to leveraging text message appointment reminders compared to online patient communication platforms or some portals is the ease of access. Most text-based services don’t require a smartphone so patients without a smart phone or access to the internet will still benefit from messaging software.
Last thing to note is make sure to familiarize yourself with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act before implementing.
3. Call Patients to Verify Appointments
Other strategies to reduce no-show rates include good old fashioned methods. Calling patients to verify their appointments is still a thing and depending on your patient demographics and preferences may be a suitable option.
By calling patients a few days before their appointment you give a personal touch. If they answer the phone, you have the perfect opportunity to see what is going on. Your staff can also ask questions to help prepare for their upcoming appointment.
No-shows are frustrating and take time away from staff members that can be covering other tasks. For patients that opt-out of text message appointment reminders a call may be the best way to insure they remember to make it to their appointment.
If your office wants to offer calls, automated calling systems can help reduce the laborious daily process required by appointment reminders while still providing a personalized touch.
4. Charge a Cancellation Fee
Cancellation fees are growing in popularity. It is a testament to the growing issue of no-shows. Providers can impose the fee when a patient fails to call or does not cancel within the specified time frame.
Both the American Medical Association and Medicare agree that healthcare providers can legally charge for a missed appointment. It is important to have a cancellation policy in place to support the fee. Where possible have the patient sign a notice of the cancellation fee policy and keep a copy in their file.
The amount of the cancellation fee is at the provider’s discretion. Some charge as little as $25. Others charge the amount of the appointment and any costs associated with it.
To enforce the policy, the patient may not be able to schedule a new appointment until the fee is paid.
5. Create a Preferred Plan
A new strategy primary care providers are giving a try is a medical concierge service. With this offering, patients pay an annual or monthly fee to receive preferential status.
The services the patient can receive include preferred hours, around-the-clock access to providers, and house calls in some instances.
By moving to this model, providers receive payment upfront. In some cases, they can bypass billing the insurance company because the fee more than pays for the visits.
Preferred plans are good for people who are in relatively good health and do not have health insurance, but do have the financial ability to pay up front. These patients are more reliable and less likely to be a no-show.
6. Extend Office Hours
In reviewing the reasons why people miss appointments, it is clear that inconvenient office hours play a role. People who work or have kids to get off to school are more likely to forget about an early morning appointment. Or if a client calls or the boss wants to have a meeting, afternoon appointments can get pushed aside.
To solve this problem and increase patient access some providers choose to offer Saturday or late evening appointments once or twice a month. To accommodate the offering, scheduling one of these appointments can come with a convenience fee.
7. Decrease the Appointment Window
Instead of having patients schedule far in advance, decrease the window. Make it a practice to only allow people to schedule appointments within 90 days. By doing so, much of the guesswork on the patient’s part to determine the best day and time is removed.
Take the Busy Work Out of Scheduling
Implementing systems, processes, and tools to reduce no-show rates is important to every health system that is working to improve the bottom line and patient access.
If you’re looking for ways to free up staff time and reduce no-show rates, we can help. Schedule a demo of our schedule management solution to improve patient satisfaction and healthcare efficiency.