How to Avoid Patient No-Shows and Cancellations
Updated: May 24
With the fast-paced culture of modern society, it can be challenging to keep track of a busy schedule, especially when it comes to the healthcare industry. Doctor visits are a part of life that can’t be avoided to some degree, and considering the sensitive nature of people’s time and the work itself, it can sometimes be a logistical nightmare for medical providers to get every patient to show up on time.
It could be a personal scheduling conflict or simply anxiety regarding the appointment itself, there are many reasons patients may cancel an appointment or no-show altogether. This article is going to provide insight and strategies into how you can reduce missed appointments and no-shows while ensuring the comfort and satisfaction of each patient.
Why Patients Cancel or No-Show
Each patient’s individual schedule is unique and sometimes full of conflicting engagements, but overall, medical visits are known to take a fair amount of time out of the day, and wait times are something many people dread. Others feel increasing anxiety as the appointment date approaches, and they figure to themselves that they can handle this visit some time down the road. This can only cause more scheduling conflicts as missed appointments can put you on a waitlist depending on your healthcare needs. In the same vein, a cancellation is communicated between the patients and the medical practice, whereas no-show appointments are just that, the patient no-shows without contacting the practice.
Patient no-show rates can lead to more scheduling conflicts for the medical practice regarding other patients and can make daily operations more complicated than they have to be in addition to lost revenue. Another reason why a patient no-show may occur is that the patient knows there isn’t any consequence to not showing up for their scheduled appointment, so they may not think twice about it.
There are quite a few solutions medical practices can implement into their policies that not only keep patient satisfaction consistent and efficient, but it helps patients to stay on top of their healthcare and show up on schedule. It’s always vital to understand each patient’s personal concerns and scheduling conflicts, but you should also have an organized system that helps to ensure a patient no-show doesn’t occur.
How To Reduce No-Shows or Cancellations
Simply put, a few integrations into the policies and requirements of your missed appointments can ensure operations stay on track and patients get the healthcare they need. You can take a blended approach to reduce no-show rates from every angle while reducing the number of last-minute changes you have to manage. Communication is vital and you need to have a clear grasp of your available appointment slots so you don’t run into issues like rescheduling, double booking, and other logistical conflicts.
Some of these include introducing requirements that have to be met for each appointment, and online integrations that make it easy for patients to schedule and manage their appointments. Having a scheduling system that offers consistent and unwavering results is vital for patient engagement and the overall efficiency of medical providers. Keep reading below to get a look at some of the most effective strategies to avoid a patient no-show.
1. Automated Reminders
Sometimes no-shows occur because the patient entirely forgot about their scheduled appointment or missed their own reminder altogether. It never hurts to have a follow-up system in place that automatically reaches out to the patient via email or text message to remind them of their appointment. Using SMS is highly preferred by many as it’s quick, non-confrontational, and gives them something physically visual that they can keep on hand.
It helps keep the appointment at the front of their mind with important information like their appointment time and the practice address. Of course, all of these interactions must follow HIPAA compliance, but an automated system like this can do wonders for both parties involved. There are many solutions available to implement a system like this, and DearDoc's AI Chat is an excellent tool that helps you stay in touch with your patients to clarify questions and book appointments with automated appointment reminders.
*DearDoc's AI Chat is designed to make patient communication and appointment booking easier. Book a free demo to see how it can help your practice.
2. Phone Call Reminders
A more direct approach would be to offer a reminder call for each patient ahead of their appointment to remind them of the date and time. This also makes a scheduled patient feel more inclined to confirm this with you directly, instead of leaving you to wonder to yourself. It also shows the patient that your practice is organized and that they’re more than ready to offer the primary care patients need.
From another aspect, a phone call follow-up may be ignored if the person is at work or possibly doesn’t recognize the random number. This can lead to a patient no-show so it’s essential to have other methods in place, in case that doesn’t work out.
3. Creating A Cancellation And No-Show Policy
This may be one of the most effective options for reducing cancellations, as the appointment policy can lay down the rules that each patient has to follow otherwise, there could be varying consequences. Each medical practice may have a unique structure to this policy but there are a few strategies that generally work across the board.
One way to ensure existing and new patients show up for their appointments is to include no-show fees. No one wants to spend more money than they already have on their healthcare, and it’s an easy way to make sure that an appointment takes place. For planned cancellations, you can require notice within 24-72 hours prior to the patient's appointment time. If you want to take it one step further, you can need that cancellation to be made over the phone only, which gives it a more personable approach and allows you to reschedule with them at the same time.
This policy can be crafted to work in the interest of the patient and the logistics of the practice. It isn’t there to make appointments more complicated, it’s only for the efficiency of the practice and the patient's health. Once again, online integrations can help with the effectiveness of this policy, and software like DearDoc offer an AI chat and autodialer system that gets patients the help they need without needing to speak directly with someone at the office.
4. Reward Systems
This may not be common for every medical practice, but it’s a good way to keep appointment scheduling on track in addition to aiding patient retention. Above all, you want to ensure each patient has a fantastic experience from beginning to end, and implementing a reward system can add to that positive experience. It doesn’t have to be anything massive, but small gestures such as discounts, gift cards, or package deals can increase patient retention, and the relationship they have with your practice.
5. Offer The Choice To Pre-Pay
If a patient has more of a reason to be tied to their appointment, they’re more likely to be there on time. Aside from implementing fees in your no-show policy, you can also give patients the option to pay for their next appointment ahead of their scheduled date, which will make them feel more committed as no one wants to waste their money. It helps you run your practice as usual while making in-person interactions much smoother. In some cases, this is more than enough incentive for people, but as stated previously, it’s ideal to have multiple systems in place to manage no-shows and cancellations.
Whether your practice is suffering from a patient no-show once in a while or on a recurring basis, this article has some of the most effective tips and strategies for minimizing this relatively common issue. Once again, the healthcare system, policies, and procedures don’t have to add to your daily workload as software can handle a lot of the work for you. If you’d like to see how DearDoc can help your practice reduce the number of times patients miss appointments, make sure to review the numerous features that can help you operate more efficiently and book a free demo now.