Very few things can impact the bottom line of a practice more than a steady stream of no shows. When a patient does not show up for an appointment you have essentially lost in two ways:
- You lose out on the earned revenue from the original appointment.
- If the patient reschedules they take up another appointment slot and you have to be concerned if they are going to show up on time or at all.
Eliminating or limiting no shows is one of the quickest and simplest ways you can increase revenue and operate your practice more efficiently.
Let’s look at some ways you can reduce patient no shows.
- Have A Written Policy – Your patients need to know what is expected of them when it comes to showing up for their next appointment. The best way to do this is to have a written policy. A written policy allows you to clearly detail what will happen if a patient is late or does not show up. The key to this step is to make sure your patients see it. You can post it at the front desk and/or require that they sign to acknowledge they are aware of your attendance policy. You may also chose to offer a copy of your policy to your patients either via handout or email.
- Contact With Your Patients On Their Terms – Your patients have a myriad of ways in which they prefer to communicate. Some prefer phone calls, while some like text messaging, and others would choose email. Some may even prefer a letter or card in the mail. Make sure you know how to communicate with your patient on their terms. It really helps with the next method of reducing no shows.
- Reminder Calls/Messaging – Once you know how your patient prefers to be communicated with, you can set up ways to send them reminders. A reminder via phone, email, text message, or letter in the mail can go a long way to reducing your no shows. Many people simply forget or have the wrong date, so a simple reminder can get them back on track. This is why knowing their preferred method of communication is so valuable. You want to make sure your reminder(s) are seen.
- Utilize Automation – Depending on the size of your practice, it may be impractical to manually send out reminders. Especially if you are sending out multiple reminders to patients who prefer to be contacts on more than one communication channel. Fortunately, many scheduling applications come equipped with automation that allows for reminder messages to be sent. You will have to research what your scheduling software is capable of. At the very least, your software should be able to send an email or text message.
- Reduce the Time Between Scheduling The Appointment and the Actual Appointment – The longer your patient has to wait from the date they schedule to the date of their appointment, the more likely something will come up that will cause them to forget or not show up. Unless absolutely necessary, limit the time that your patient has to wait for their next appointment.
- Address Any Patient Concerns – As you might have sensed by now, great communication is the most important thing you can do to reduce no shows. When scheduling a patient, try to pick up on any non-verbal, or even verbal, cues that may hint at any concerns that your patient may have about their next appointment. A patient may schedule their appointment to avoid a confrontation and then skip it or cancel at the last minute. Make sure that your patient understands the importance of future appointments and be available to address any concerns or fears.
- BONUS: Reschedule No Shows ASAP – The unfortunate reality is that no matter what you do, you will most likely never eliminate no-shows completely. Patients will still show up late or no show on you. When this happens, try to reschedule the patient ASAP. Try to understand the reason they missed or were late and determine if there is anything you can do to ensure they make their next appointment.
There are any number of reasons why a patient may not show for an appointment. Your goal should be to try to remove as many obstacles as possible. Doing so will (hopefully) make it easy for your patients to show up on time and ready for their appointment.