Patients become no-shows for a variety of reasons, and the impact that has on your practice is well documented. It’s frustrating to prepare for a patient only to find yourself checking your watch and realizing you’ve been stood up. In previous blogs, we’ve looked into some of the reasons why patients no-show such as finances, fear, forgetfulness, transportation, and last minute issues. But there is another side to the no-show issue that is important to recognize: a no-show patient may be looking to receive their care from somewhere else.
The No-Show/Attrition Connection
Just as patients miss an appointment for different reasons, patients may seek care from another provider for many reasons as well. Sometimes attrition is a result of circumstances that couldn’t be helped, such as the patient moving to a new, less convenient area, or possibly the patient passing away. But there are issues that cause patients to seek new care providers which are impacted by you and your staff, and many of these can be hinted at by a patient who no-shows.
It’s a Matter of Time
No one likes to wait. Patients are no longer willing to sit in your lobby for 30 minutes or more after their appointment time as part of their visit to your office. If it seems that you don’t value your patient’s time, your patient surely won’t value yours and may begin looking for another provider where their time is more valued. The first sign of this may be a no-show or a last minute cancellation. Following up with the patient should make it clear if he or she missed the appointment due to time concerns.
When a patient acknowledges not showing because of the wait times experienced in your office, there are three important things you should do:
Apologize for the wait and maybe offer a discount on the patient’s bill, or provide a gift card as a form of amends.
Assure the patient that you will address the wait time issue with your staff to ensure that steps are taken to prevent future delays.
Keep your word. Work with your staff to identify the reasons wait times are so long. Is there a lack of communication? Do insurance issues or payments take too long? Is the schedule overbooked?
Work with your staff to determine all the contributing factors to the wait time issue, then make the necessary changes. You may get this patient to come back for one more try, but if things haven’t improved, they will look elsewhere.
It’s a Matter of Money
Insurance and finances are not the most pleasant topics of conversation, but for the sake of your patients and your practice, they are conversations you need to have. Patients who are concerned about the cost of their treatment may no-show for an appointment. When you call the patient to follow up, it’s important to have information and options available. Is there a financing option you can offer patients? Do you or someone in your practice have a familiarity with the type of insurance this patient has? If you are referring the patient to a specialist, do you understand what the patient’s insurance will cover? Will the specialist work out payment plans if needed?
Financial issues are one of the most difficult to talk about, and patients may not want to initiate the conversation. However awkward it may seem, it’s less difficult to discuss money and insurance in advance than to lose a patient who either seeks care elsewhere, or who doesn’t seek needed care at all.
It’s a Matter of Understanding
Presenting complicated, detailed information to patients takes time. Patients who don’t understand what you’ve told them about procedures or disease can quickly become overwhelmed or afraid. This may cause them to no-show for an appointment because they don’t know what to expect. If their fear becomes significant, they may look elsewhere for care, or they may choose not to pursue care at all.
Before a patient leaves your office with instructions, it is incumbent on you not only to ensure you convey the information that patient needs, but to be certain the patient understands. Ask questions of the patient to be certain they have an acceptable level of comprehension. Ask the patient to explain the information to you to gauge their level of understanding. Investing a few extra minutes ascertaining your patient’s awareness of the information is an investment for both of you in the long-term relationship you hope to have.
In our next installment, we’ll look at other reasons patients may shift from no-show to no-go. If you’d like more information on reducing your attrition rate, click here!