We wish to thank all of you who participated in our recent practice management survey, which was prompted from an office manager’s comment about the increase in the number of patient “no show” appointments. Your active participation is an encouragement to continue to look for ways to help you in managing your business and increase your bottom line. Our overall response rate was very good – so, Thank You!
For this particular practice management survey, we asked if you have noted an increase in the percentage of no show appointments over the last six months. 50% of you said, yes. We asked if you charged your patients for their missed appointment. 61% indicated that they do charge their patients. And the most common response to the question on how much you charged for these missed appointments was the fee range of $21 – $25.
The problem with patients missing a scheduled appointment is not a new issue for medical and dental offices. However, based upon indications that the problem isn’t going away and may actually be on the rise, let’s take some time to review ways to manage and minimize our exposure to this scheduling annoyance.
Know your Patient – You can’t manage what you do not measure. To put this into perspective for your “no show” appointments, be sure to identify and track patients that miss appointments. From your list, look for common reasons for the missed appointments. Are there certain appointment types that are skipped more often than any other types? Have you “bumped” or canceled an appointment with this patient before? Was the time-frame from the date of booking the appointment to the actual appointment date longer than normal? Look for specific patterns in your data that may help you pin-point solutions for lowering the number of missed appointments.
Stay on time – The legendary college basketball coach, John Wooden said, “Respect a man, and he will do all the more.” Patients that experience long time delays in the waiting or exam room may perceive this as a lack of respect for their time, which can cause a greater amount of disrespect for your time. If you are finding that you are always running late, look for ways to create more patient access. Strategies may include changing your scheduling techniques, and/or adding a mid-level provider or another doctor to your practice.
Communicate & Engage – A patient that understands the importance of the scheduled appointment is more likely to keep the appointment. Making reminder telephone calls to the patient is a common way of doing this. If you are scheduling patients for a repeat visit, providers should speak with the patient regarding the need for the revisit and then staff members will be able to reinforce this with the patient during the check-out process and provide them with your appointment policy. Also during the scheduling process, ensure that your patients participate in selecting the day and time of the appointment.
Here are some tips to consider that were offered by your peers:
- Install a reminder system. Send out reminder postcards 15 days prior to the patient visit. Call the patient two days prior to the visit. – Whether this is a manual system or an automated one, reminding patients of their appointment in advance is a good practice. Keep in mind that this can be done by training and utilizing your college age students who are looking for work. Making calls in the early evening may stand a better chance of making a personal connection.
- Confirm appointments electronically first and then call the patient if they do not respond. Some practice management systems today have the ability to contact your patients through a computerized system – does yours? Invest in learning how to use the features of your computer system or technology in general. These tools can assist you in efficiently managing your practice.
- Establish a procedural system and written policy for canceled and “no show” appointments. Include a note on your appointment card. Ensure that your contact information for the patient is up to date at each visit. – Effectively communicating and reinforcing what you say with a written policy that is part of your “patient appointment or welcome packet” will assist you in educating your patients regarding the importance of their appointment with you.