Most practices are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year due to missed appointments alone. How much are YOU losing? If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the many practices suffering from what we call the “No-Show Epidemic.” The primary culprit? Patients who just don’t show up for their appointments. In addition, symptoms are caused by cancellations that don’t get filled or even patients who walk out because they’ve been kept waiting too long.
No-show rates range from 15-30 percent and reach as high as 50 percent in certain specialties. Unexpected gaps in your schedule don’t just waste time and raise your blood pressure; in a field where time equals money, even a few no-shows per week rob you of (and waste) huge amounts of money every year.
Depending on the purpose of the appointment, two no-shows a day can mean a loss of $200-900 for the practice. This means that, over the course of a year, the practice has sacrificed a significant amount of revenue to missed appointments: somewhere between $52,000 and a quarter of a million dollars!
The time spent prepping for an appointment that never showed is valuable time your staff could have spent on other important tasks. The worst part? You’re paying them to waste all that time!
THE TWO MOST FIXABLE PROBLEMS WHEN IT COMES TO NO-SHOWS ARE:
- A lack of effective communication
- Unengaged patients
You may be surprised to find that missed appointments are often set into motion before the appointment is even scheduled! The next sections describe secrets used by successful practices to prevent and address no-shows throughout the entire continuum of care. It includes steps to take before your patient schedules an appointment, after they’ve scheduled, while they are in your office, and between visits.
NOTE: Technology has drastically simplified the ability for practices to increase revenue and improve efficiency. The most successful practices take advantage of the benefits of technology by making use of automated systems that allow them to personalize their patient outreach. As we move through the care plan, keep in mind that the value of patient engagement technology in your practice simply can’t be matched, even if you’re paying staff members to do the same tasks manually.
Whether or not patients show up is largely affected by the relationship you have established with them before they even schedule an appointment. There are a couple of things you should keep in mind as you nurture these important relationships.
Secret #1: Get Personal (and Digital!)
Patients are more likely to respect your schedule if they relate to the people behind the practice name, so stop engaging them as a business and treat them like friends.
As with our personal relationships, technology has made it ineffective to maintain communication the way we once did. Snail mail—even the personalized kind—just wastes money (and time!). Luckily, the average person checks their email about 34 times a day just from their smartphone, so use digital outreach to your advantage and make the most of the capabilities it offers!
Send birthday messages with a personal touch. Electronic messages are more likely to be seen, but they also give you a world of options for attention-grabbing personalization. Create a customized greeting by embedding a photo of your practice staff wearing party hats and holding a Happy Birthday sign, or—even better—make it a quick video with the whole staff yelling “Happy Birthday!”
Humanize your social media. People engage people. Most companies have a Facebook page, but not all of them understand the value of “keeping it real.” Instead of writing as the practice, write as yourself! Post a selfie of you at the new restaurant you tried last week, or give a shout out to the assistant who is running her first marathon this weekend.
Secret #2: Share what you know
As a healthcare provider, you have the ability to engage patients in ways that other small businesses cannot. Think about it—the internet is chock-full of info on every topic imaginable, including healthcare. For people trying to gather valuable information on their health, this massive amount of information overload can be exhausting and overwhelming.
Since you have already been selected as the expert of choice for your patients, providing them with the info they’re seeking is really a no-brainer. It not only provides the relief your patients need, but also sets you up as an expert in their eyes. Make sure you’re using the latest technology to share educational information. If you are relying on in-office tactics like brochures or printed PDFs, you’re missing out on the excellent opportunities the digital world has presented for educating your patients. Successful practices do this when they:
Send eNewsletters. Add an education section to the electronic newsletters you are already sending. You can also create series of newsletters that educate patients on specific topics for targeted, engaging outreach.
Educate through social media and blog posts or videos. These avenues are excellent tools for quickly sharing tips or health news. If patients benefit from the information you provide, they’re more likely to engage in the future!