How to Reduce Your Patient No-Show Rates

May 5, 2021

No-shows cost the healthcare industry an estimated $150 billion in profit each year

When a patient unexpectedly misses an appointment, the consequences can be ruinous for their health. For your medical practice, a high rate of no-shows can compromise revenue and, ultimately, the quality of care you provide.

Not only does it waste valuable time on the clinic schedule, it also discourages patients from ever making up their appointment. If a patient no-shows, there’s a strong likelihood they won’t visit their practice again for 18 months

Every patient misses an appointment now and again, but last minute cancellations are avoidable. Let’s take a closer look at no-shows, and how to mitigate them.

Why patient no-shows are dangerous

It’s easy to overlook the occasional no-show in a day’s work. However, the trend has far-reaching consequence for any medical practice – and its patients.

No-shows harm patients

When patients miss their appointments, they often fail to reschedule altogether. As every physician knows, delays in medical check-ups and procedures can lead to severe health consequences for any patient.

No-shows illuminate bigger issues

No-shows are the result of some systemic shortcomings, be it communication, staffing, patient engagement, or tech infrastructure. These same systems can also affect, and inhibit, revenue cycles, employee satisfaction, and overall quality of care. By reducing no-shows, you’re also optimizing the fundamental systems of your business.

Profit loss adds up fast

A time slot that goes unfilled in a practice results in an estimated $200 in profit loss. Ten no-shows in one week could amount to an upwards of $2000 profit loss. Over the course of a year, that is potentially a six-figure loss.

No-shows affect all specialties

One study across primary care and sub-specialties found the average around 18% – however, some practitioners report much, much higher rates. It is an inevitable part of any service business. How your business mitigates no-shows is really what matters.

Reasons for patient no-shows

There are myriad reasons why individuals miss their medical appointments, but often they fall under one of a few common categories. Identifying them is the first step toward mitigating their effects.

Transportation

Every year, millions of people miss doctors appointments because they don’t have access to adequate transportation. While this may be particularly extreme for rural practices, travel may be a prohibitive factor for people with disabilities in any area.

Finances

Though the Affordable Care Act has increased the number of insured Americans, many people struggle to pay their bills. The prospect of another expense – even a crucial medical check-up, at insured rates – can cause people to cancel appointments.

Apathy

It’s easier to cancel an appointment if it doesn’t seem important. Physicians understand that routine medical check-ups and preventive medicine save lives – but that relationship is not always made clear to patients.

Forgetfulness

Sometimes people just forget. In fact, more than ⅓ of no-shows were people who simply forgot, according to one study. If they scheduled their check up six months ago, and haven’t been reminded about it since, it’s all too easy to forget.

Rescheduling obstacles

Some no-shows are people who wanted to reschedule but never managed to successfully do so. Rescheduling over the phone might be inaccessible to some clients due to scheduling or language barriers. An overwhelmed reception desk might simply not be able to handle all callers.

Tips for decreasing patient no-show rates

No practice can ever get to 0% no-show rates, but most practices can aspire to lower their rate significantly from its current levels. How intently you mitigate the no-show rate is up to you.

Waitlists

When the inevitable cancellation arises, you can still fill that appointment slot. Keep a waiting list for every day, so patients can make use of the opportunity – and you can keep the schedule full.

Telehealth

For patients with disabilities and transit access issues, telehealth can mean the difference between seeing a doctor or not. It also allows physicians to geographically expand their client base and fill in empty slots on short notice.

Reminders

Send multiple reminder notices, to every patient, especially as the appointment date approaches. Remind them not only of the time and location but also the reason for their appointment, and how it fits into their overall well being. If possible, send them via the patient’s preferred mode of communication – email, text, app, phone, or even postal mail.

Automation

By automating all scheduling correspondence and reminders, you’ll eliminate the chance for human error and allow your reception staff to focus on higher-touch patient engagement.

Patient portals

Empower patients to make, cancel, and reschedule appointments on their own with an online portal. They can amend appointments any time of day or night as needed, saving your reception desk time and giving patients greater ownership over their own care.

Conclusion

No-show rates are the cause of avoidable health complications for patients and unnecessary profit loss for medical businesses. The reasons for no-shows often come down to personal obstacles for patients and communication errors on the part of medical businesses.

By streamlining patient engagement operations and taking a more active role in the scheduling process, any practice can decrease their no-show rate. Building greater accessibility into the scheduling process as well as medical treatment will ensure that more patients can make it to their appointments.

The infrastructure required for these improvements is available to medical practices of all sizes. To explore them all in one unified platform, reach out to the Quatris Healthco team today.

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