The Scourge of Healthcare
No-shows are a source of frustration in every area of healthcare. They cost the healthcare industry millions of dollars, they mess with your practice schedule, and they can lead to worse health for the patient. It’s a constant battle for most practices, but have you stopped to consider how your practice may be making things worse?
Blaming the Patient
It’s easy to blame the patient who doesn’t show. After all, they are the one who missed the appointment. We’ve looked at a number of reasons that can cause a patient to become a no-show, but it’s worthwhile to take a look in the mirror and see if your practice may be contributing to patients not keeping appointments. You have much more control over your practice and your staff than you do over patients, so why not consider those things which you could fix at home as a first step toward alleviating a no-show problem.
Making the Connection
Are you using a reminder system to alert patients about upcoming appointments? Does that reminder system consist of staff members making manual phone calls when they can work them in during their day? While it’s nice to think that a personal touch really matters (and for many things, it does!), when it comes to reminders for appointments, the majority of your clients rely on their cellphones and would prefer an automated text message to a voicemail which they may not hear in time. Using your staff to make manual calls is costly and time consuming, and on those days when your waiting room is full, those reminder calls often don’t get made.
Automated reminders work at times when your regular staff can’t. They can work weekends, evenings, and during those times when your regular staff is too busy with in-person patients to make manual reminder calls. Automated systems can also be personalized so that patients still feel connected in a friendly way with your practice.
A Costly Proposition
Some practices have taken to charging patients for missed appointments. While it is understandable, and has been deemed to be ethical, the practice of charging no-show patients comes with additional issues and is controversial even among healthcare providers. Patients who couldn’t help missing the appointment (transportation, accidents, illness, or other issues), feel unjustly punished for circumstances beyond their control. Many patients refuse to pay the fee, and many practices have had difficulty in collecting it. This can lead to ill will in your patient relationships, negative reviews on social media and other sites, and can cause an increase in patients looking for care with another provider.
Some practices have found that a kinder and gentler approach is more successful. A fee may be assessed, but it can be reversed from the bill when a patient reschedules and keeps the second appointment. Habitual offenders can be asked to attend an informational presentation on the importance of consistent care. Patients might also be unaware they missed an appointment (if you’re relying on postcards or patient memory instead of automated reminders).
Providing a missed appointment reminder with the opportunity to reschedule is a great way to ensure patients reschedule quickly to receive the care they need.
Automate Your Office
How much time on average do your patients wait in your reception area? The average time nationally is between 19 and 24 minutes, but it can be up to 45 minutes or longer depending on the area of the US, the type of healthcare being provided, and other variable factors. While this may seem like it’s not so bad, it’s important to remember that we live in an age of instant gratification. Patients expect that if their appointment is at 3:30, they’ll be in an exam or treatment room at 3:35. If the wait time in your practice is more than 15 minutes, many patients will begin to look at their watch. You can’t expect them to value your time if they don’t believe you value theirs.
Automation is an invaluable time-saver and can benefit both your staff and your patients. From electronic health records, to automated check-in options, to digital information and communication through a secure patient portal, automation can help to improve efficiency and decrease wait times for patients. By adding automated features, you free up your staff to work more effectivelywith patients and further build the solid relationships that prevent no-shows and reduce attrition rates.
Take a Good, Long Look
When you take an honest assessment of your practice, you can easily identify areas which may be contributing to patients becoming no-shows. Start with your own operations and take action to correct issues that may be making it easier for patients to skip appointments. Make sure your policies are clear, and make sure you apply them consistently. For more information on preventing no-shows, click here!