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.
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. Often there are additional challenges that arise that cause patients to not only skip appointments, but to cease coming to your office altogether.
It’s a Matter of Mobility
Transportation is a frustrating issue for all of us, but it’s especially frustrating when you don’t have access to reliable transportation. People who live in urban areas may not own a car due to the expense of parking or storing it. Many urban and suburban dwellers rely on public transit as their primary means of getting from place to place. Seniors or those with chronic health issues or disabilities will also turn to family members or friends to get them to and from appointments. Regardless of the circumstances, not having your own reliable transportation creates complications.
It’s tempting to determine that these patients are on their own for getting to or from an appointment. Transportation is seen as more of a personal issue which many providers don’t want to be involved in. But if a patient is unable to keep appointments due to transportation issues, it can quickly become a healthcare issue. Patients who are unable to get to regular appointments may be forced to wait until they have an emergency before receiving care, and for many of them, this may be too late. Patients who are elderly or have chronic health issues are particularly at risk.
While providers clearly cannot assume responsibility for every patient’s transportation, there are still steps they can take to improve the likelihood of a patient arriving to appointments. Ride sharing services such as Uber can offer patients door-to-door service for a nominal fee. Using a convenient app and integration through appointment reminders, Uber can contact patients who may need a ride to schedule the service. Not only does this decrease the risk of a no-show, but encourages patients to keep their regular appointments and safeguard their health.
It’s a Matter of Memory
Everyone forgets things now and again. In our busy world, it’s a common experience. But forgetting an appointment with a healthcare provider can have serious consequences. First, some practices charge a no-show fee, which can be both expensive and inconvenient. Second, missing scheduled appointments can interfere with ongoing care. This can impact the patient’s health and well being.
While many practices have a no-show policy which does not include a fee, they might limit the number of missed appointments a patient can have in a given time frame. Some patients may see these policies as punitive, which may make them less inclined to come back if they’ve missed an appointment for any reason. The important thing here is to consider your policies against the well being of your patients.
In conjunction with offering ride assistance, providing patients with appointment reminders can help to avoid or minimize the risk a patient will cease coming to your office at all. If something happens and a patient does miss an appointment, a missed appointment message can assure the patient your concern is for their health and can encourage them to contact you to reschedule the appointment.
It’s a Matter of Courtesy
Patients who become a no-show are not always going to become another casualty of attrition. Most of them want to come back and attend to their health. When you extend to them the courtesy of understanding and assistance, you encourage them to keep the dialog open. This builds improved rapport with your patients which in turn builds patient loyalty. With a few small options added to your practice, you can demonstrate to your patients that they matter to you.
For more information on preventing no-shows from becoming lost patients, click here!