The financial impact of no-show patients is a well-known, well-documented part of the healthcare world. The reasons patients fail to keep an appointment are almost as varied as the patients themselves, but the reality is a no-show can affect more than just your revenue. Sure, the $150 billion per year revenue loss to the American healthcare system is a serious figure (and amounts to an average of loss of $32,500 each month for a practice with a 13 percent no-show rate). However, there are other costs not factored into that dollar amount that can be equally as challenging to your practice.
No-Show Impact to Your Operation
Patients who no-show create holes in your schedule make it almost impossible to build a reliable and accurate staffing schedule. This can lead to not enough staff during peak times, or too many staff when things slow down. In addition to frustrating staff members who can’t get a consistent schedule, it is frustrating to patients who arrive during under-staffed times and have to wait.
A last-minute cancellation can mean key staff members are pulled off their regular tasks to spend time calling patients on a wait list and trying to plug the holes in the schedule. Staff may even resort to “double-booking” appointments - with or without your consent - if they believe there is a likelihood a patient won’t show. Double-booking may guarantee a waiting area filled with patients, but it guarantees a longer wait for those patients when the schedule becomes bogged down. This in turn leads to dissatisfied patients who will begin looking elsewhere for care.
No-Show Impact on Patient Satisfaction
When patients arrive on time for their appointment, they expect to be seen quickly. They believe that your office will work in an efficient and effective manner. If you’ve staffed your office anticipating your usual 15 percent no-show rate, and only 5 percent actually miss their appointments, you’ve got added wait times that are guaranteed to frustrate your patients. If you’ve compounded the problem by double-booking appointments, your waiting room can quickly become hostile territory.
Another problem caused by no-shows is that patients who miss appointments are not getting necessary care. According to a CNN report, millions of Americans skip their medical appointments because of the costs. This can lead to higher medical costs overall as patients with treatable illness postpone care until their condition becomes urgent (and ultimately costs more).
Patient satisfaction takes a further hit in that the no-show problem compounds: because scheduling becomes an issue, appointments are booked further in advance, which leads to a higher risk of no-show. In other words, no-shows cause longer wait times, and vice versa.
When patients have to wait for appointments and then wait again when they arrive, their level of satisfaction declines dramatically. Ultimately, many patients may choose to look elsewhere for their care.
How You Can Make an Impact on No-Shows
No-shows might be inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer an impact to your practice. With a few tools that are easily implemented, you can protect against the negative effects of no-shows.
1. Have a no-show policy that patients read and sign either before or at their first appointment. Explain clearly and simply how you handle patients who fail to keep an appointment. Do you charge a small fee? Can the fee be refunded after the patient schedules and keeps a new appointment? How many no-show appointments do you allow before refusing to see the patient anymore? Talk with your staff to develop the policy and ensure they all understand and will reinforce it. You can try some role-playing to teach staff members how to handle patients who run into the policy.
2. Provide incentives. Perhaps patients who arrive on time receive a small discount on their bill, or they are entered into a monthly drawing for a gift card. Encouraging patients to arrive on time helps reduce the number of no-shows because everyone wants the chance for a reward.
3. Use a reminder service. Automated reminders that can be sent by text, email, or by phone improve the chances that patients will remember their appointment and make sure they are there on the right day at the right time. Using an automated system also helps with staffing problems in that none of your staff need to give up other important tasks in order to make calls manually.
There are a number of great ideas and suggestions for helping to minimize the no-show percentage in your practice. For more information, read our handy guide.