Number 1 in a 5 Blog Series
Very few things in your practice are as frustrating as someone who doesn’t show up for their appointment or cancels at the last moment. You’ve already prepped, reviewed the file, scheduled staff, and then suddenly - you’re standing there without a patient to see.
There are any number of reasons a patient doesn’t show. Over the course of the next few blogs, we will look at specific reasons patients become a no-show and identify steps that you can take to prevent this from happening.
One of the reasons patients will fail to show is finances. As people across the country continue to struggle in the aftermath of the recession, they find their economic recovery isn’t enough to recover from the stress of the 2008 crash. Millions of people lost their jobs or were forced to accept cutbacks. Companies which had previously offered rich benefit plans were forced to reduce their contributions to premiums or switch to more minimal plans. While things are certainly on the economic upswing, not everyone has fully recovered, and finances have to be closely monitored just to cover the basics.
According to a New York Times/Kaiser Foundation report, even people with healthcare and dental coverage struggle to cover the cost of those expenses. Understandably, then, patients may be reluctant to incur more expense, or to pursue regular visits which may end with additional care or treatment needed, and they no-show for those appointments. The fear of additional costs for exams, tests, or treatment may seem overwhelming to a patient who is dealing with financial stress.
Discussing Financial Responsibilities
No one likes talking about money, not even in their own families. Financial discussions are rife with stress and challenges. However, for the sake of your patients and your practice, this is a conversation that needs to be had from the very beginning. There are some simple things to remember before you begin discussing this topic. The first is that being straightforward, open, and honest with patients about your fees, which insurance you accept, and your payment expectations and billing practices will leave patients with no excuses. Being clear about policies and payments, and answering questions in advance of treatment decreases the risk of a patient becoming a no-show.
If patients are concerned about money, or about becoming a no-show as a result of finances, there are options you can share with them. Offering a program such as CareCredit can provide patients with simple financing to cover larger expenses like extended treatment plans. There are also programs through Medicare and Medicaid that may be available to them as well. If you offer payment options, such as breaking the cost of a large expense into smaller, monthly payments, you’ll be doing your patients a wonderful service.
The second thing to remember when discussing finances is to provide everything in writing to your patients. It’s important that your policies, your payment plans, and even helpful resources be written down or made available via email, on your website, on your social media site, or through your patient portal.
When you are honest and upfront with your patients, you minimize misunderstandings and reduce fear. This helps to prevent no-shows because your patients know what to expect. They have an opportunity to ask questions, consider their options, and address concerns before the appointment.
For more information on why patients no-show and how to address it, click here!