Everyone in healthcare is painfully aware that inevitable missed appointments are the bane of their existence. For a variety of reasons, some of your patients simply won’t make their appointments (or will cancel late) with the results being a costly hit to your practice or organization in more ways than one.
Impacts of No-Shows and Late Cancellations
Average no-show rates can range between 10–30 percent while setting your practice back by the tune of $150,000 to $300,000 annually per provider. In addition to the considerable financial impacts of missed appointments, there are obviously further repercussions that directly affect you and your patients.
Among the most devastating are poorer outcomes for patients who defer or delay care, Swiss cheese-sized holes in your schedules, longer wait times, and decreased accessibility for other patients. In effect, no-shows degrade your ability to engage with patients at the level you’d like to while causing disruptions to the appointment workflow that result in a less than optimal patient experience and dissatisfied patients.
Similarly, no-shows throw a wrench in your operations when staff have to scramble to fill vacant slots and further strain already short-staffed front office members. Patients skipping out on their visits can often trigger a ripple effect through your entire practice to function effectively and profitably.
The silver lining here is that enhanced patient-provider communication not only helps you connect better and more meaningfully with your patients but it can also be an elixir to minimizing no-shows and late cancellations.
Strategies to Reducing Missed Appointments
A common theme among practices and organizations faced with unacceptably high no-show rates is reliance on processes, techniques, and tools that have passed their expiration date. Eighty-three percent of patients said poor communication was the worst part of the patient experience in 2020.
That’s largely because patients’ communication preferences have evolved in recent years. In an era when 97 percent of Americans own a cellphone and use it to text regularly, using phone calls and manual reminder systems to reach patients is simply a non-starter. Texting has not only become a communication standard in society, but it’s also how the vast majority of patients want to interact with you.
The following are three strategies using new technologies and tools to help you reduce no-shows:
- Stay connected: In one study, 52 percent of patients missed appointments simply because they forgot to attend or cancel the visit. Better communication, whether through text, email, or voice has been shown to be effective in reducing no-shows.That’s because appointment reminders really do work! Sending multiple reminders based off of patients’ individual communication preferences will lower your no-show rates. Research shows that healthcare organizations actively working to minimize no-shows can reduce them by up to 70 percent.
- Send confirmation or cancellation messages: Encourage your patients to either confirm or cancel their appointment within a specific time frame. This gives them the opportunity to reschedule if the current time doesn’t work for them and allows you to adjust your schedule to avoid gaps in the calendar. In one study, sending automated appointment reminders three times at a proven cadence resulted in a 156 percent increase in confirmations. Technologies like patient relationship management (PRM) solutions can help you automate and streamline much of your appointment workflows and patient communication while reducing workloads for short-staffed front offices.
- Automate waitlists: Instead of manually filling vacancies in your schedule, which is time-consuming and a less effective expenditure of staff resources, technology platforms and apps can immediately alert patients on a waitlist via a text or email when an opening becomes available. This functionality allows you to expedite filling those schedule vacancies while reducing the burden placed on staff members. Research in the UK found that 91 percent of patients would accept a last-minute appointment due to a cancellation if they were offered the slot.
Adding “new” tools and technologies to your patient communication repertoire—such as text messaging and a patient engagement platform—can help take your patient interaction to a whole new level. You’ll be able to connect with patients on their terms and use automation to more effectively and efficiently send reminders, confirmations, and other important scheduling messages. And the proof is in the numbers. Eighty-one percent of healthcare organizations that use PRM software have no-show rates of 10 percent or less.
For more about how you can minimize no-shows and cancellations, increase confirmations, and enhance your patient communications, check out the free guide, “No-Shows No More.”