What day of the week are appointments most likely to be cancelled?
Wouldn’t it be grand if we lived in a cancellation-free world? If a cancellation list to fill doctor appointments didn’t need to exist? A land where every patient kept their doctor’s appointment and never required medical appointment reminders?
The reality is patients cancel appointments, but how has COVID-19 changed that? Better yet, how can you fill patient cancellations during a pandemic?
We looked at nine million appointments during COVID-19 to find patterns that might benefit providers. We found two important factors to consider: The day the appointment was scheduled to happen and the day the appointment was actually cancelled.
Day Of Week When Appointment was to Take Place
Our data showed that the cancellation rate is identical no matter what day the appointment was scheduled. This is very different from pre-COVID patterns. Do days of the week not matter anymore?
Before COVID, we saw that patients tended to keep appointments earlier in the week, but cancel the ones scheduled towards the weekend.
Everyday life has changed for all of us. We used to have more predictable schedules and had blocks of time or days that worked best for certain appointments or activities.
Consider this: there was a time when fewer people worked from home and you could avoid the grocery store after-work rush hour and shop during the day. Now, with limited products and people keeping different schedules, there is never a good time to predict when you should go to the store.
Just as consumers don’t know what day they’ll go to the store, they don’t have a preferred day set for their medical appointments. The days seem to blend during COVID.
When Patients Cancelled
While patients felt indifferent about the time or day of the week for when they had an appointment, patients were more likely to cancel on Thursday no matter when their appointment was scheduled.
We all know what it’s like to feel our top-of-week motivation wane as we inch towards the weekend. We are far more likely to make serious dents in our to-do list at the beginning of the week.
Come Thursday, patients are finding time to shift their plans and by Friday they are getting into weekend mode. The decision to cancel on a Thursday could leave you with schedule gaps for upcoming weeks.
Read our Definitive Guide to Patient Cancellations to learn more about how to turn cancellations into revenue.
The Manual Side of Healthcare
What can you do with this data?
- Tell patients looking to come in on short notice to call on Thursday. There is no better way to increase patient satisfaction than to accommodate short-notice appointments and improve patient access. Since our data shows patients don’t have a preference on days anymore but are calling on Thursday to cancel, you can tell patients that Thursdays might show the most updated slots for sooner appointments.
- If patients are at their most productive on Monday and Tuesday, then front office staff members are too! You are making more phone calls to patients to remind them of upcoming appointments. Sadly, most medical organizations do not use automated appointment reminders yet. Want to know what automated appointment reminders are? Read our in-depth review of patient appointment reminders here.
- Utilize a cancellation list for doctor appointments. Many places recommend overbooking as a solution. We do not. Every time you incorrectly overbook, i.e. a patient shows up when you were not expecting them, you create a negative experience for two patients. While we always frowned upon overbooking, COVID-19 guarantees that you cannot implement this since there is limited space in waiting rooms. Optimizing your schedule has never been more important. You can read more about how to do this in our rundown on Waitlist Management Software 101.
Patient cancellations are a given at any practice, and while you clearly want to do everything in your power to avoid them, a cancellation is always better than a no-show. (You can read our Guide to No-shows here).
Cancellations offer medical organizations opportunities to demonstrate flexibility (cancellers are treated with understanding and rebooked), and dedication to your patients (those with future appointments are offered an opportunity to see you sooner). Utilization of a cancellation list for doctor appointments can help do just that!
We hope our analysis helps your medical organization make patient cancellations work for you during COVID-19 and in the future to rebuild patient volume.
This blog post is part of a series based on our analysis of cancelled appointments that QueueDr has automatically filled. Our technology resembles a cancellation list for doctor appointments, but without an actual list. After analyzing these cancellations we learned many things, some very surprising. These posts will provide insight on medical scheduling, doctor schedule optimization, patient satisfaction, and the ever-changing world of healthcare.