Patients who no-show are a year-round frustration, but that frustration is compounded during the busy holiday season (and don't even mention the complications COVID has added to this!). Knowing what steps to take to minimize, or even eliminate, no-shows can save you and your practice a lot of anxiety and stress and can actually help you build solid patient relationships that will last for years to come.
This may be the singularly most important and effective method of preventing no-shows. Your patients - just like you - are busy people. They can forget or double-book themselves without realizing it. During the holidays, this is an even bigger issue. Sending them a reminder text message or phone call can minimize the risk of your patient forgetting or accidentally over-booking themselves. You might even offer to send a reminder a few days before the appointment and then a second reminder the day before. Patients will appreciate your thoughtfulness and you’ll be better assured of them making their appointment as scheduled.
Be Flexible with Payment Options
There are a few things you can do to ease the pain of payment. Studies show that collection rates improve by 25 percent simply by requesting payment the way a patient prefers. Unfortunately, lots of practices are still sending paper bills (and only paper bills!). Ask patients how they would like to be informed of balances and use that method. This may mean sending payment reminders via text or email.
If you give patients the option to pre-pay for appointments, they are more likely to show for that appointment. Paying in advance is a contract between patient and practice that makes it easier to plan for scheduling. At this time of year, finances are tops on the list of your patients’ concerns. They have no desire to lose their money by not showing, so they are highly motivated to keep their appointments. You can sweeten the deal for pre-pay patients by offering a small discount as well. This encourages more patients to use the option while continuing to reduce the risk of no shows.
Lead by Example
If your practice is forever running behind and your patients spend more than 15-20 minutes in your waiting area, the chances are good they feel as though you don’t value their time. If patients feel they aren’t respected, they are more likely to become a no-show and even an attrition statistic. Make sure that your patients are spending a minimal amount of time waiting, especially during the holidays. If you’ve fallen more than 30 minutes behind, give patients the option of continuing to wait or rescheduling. You might even offer them a discount on their rescheduled appointment, or at least a small gift card as a way of apologizing. Better yet, be sure you’re scheduling efficiently so that waiting doesn’t become a problem.
Follow Up Fast
It’s easy for patients to become forgetful or to overschedule themselves during the holiday. Following up with a patient who no-shows demonstrates your concern for their well-being and helps strengthen patient-provider relationships. When done as soon as possible after the no-show, sending a quick message to remind patients about their missed appointment and inviting them to reschedule will help keep patients on track with their care and protect against lost revenue. This also helps prevent a no-show patient from becoming an attrition statistic.
Make Sure “Customer Service” is a Priority
Everyone gets stressed out this time of year, including you and your staff. Make sure you are supportive of your staff during busier times by limiting critical remarks and keeping the mood in the office light. Patients confronted by a surly receptionist or a crabby assistant may choose to look elsewhere for their care. One of the best ways to keep patients happy during the holidays is to make sure your staff is happy. When your staff are giving genuine smiles and cheerful attitudes to patients, they feel welcomed and appreciated. Be sure you’re handing out praise on a regular basis to recognize good work and positive dispositions of your staff. Your patients are your customers, so ensure they are treated with respect.
Have a Happy Holiday
Sometimes simply acknowledging your patients during the holidays will encourage them to keep their appointments. Sending a holiday email or card or hosting an open house to say thank you to patients is an excellent way to build lasting relationships and discourage no-shows. When patients feel as if they’re treated as friends, they are more inclined to remain loyal to you and your practice, refer friends and family to you, and they are less likely to become a no-show.
Whichever holiday you, your staff, or your patients celebrate, remembering to stay friendly, be flexible, and enjoy the season will benefit everyone. It will help reduce stress and reduce no-shows, too. Have a very happy holiday season!
Learn more about reducing no-show appointments in our free guide, "No Shows No More."