No-show patients are an annoying and costly problem for practices. When it comes to excuses, doctors and staff have heard it all. No-shows usually fall into three categories:
- Patients who simply forgot their appointment.
- Patients who had a work conflict.
- Patients who couldn’t reach anyone at the clinic or couldn’t leave a voicemail to cancel.
No-shows are a perennial problem for clinics and practices. Studies have found no-show rates in outpatient settings range between 23.1% and 33.6% and result in decreased efficiency, lost time and higher use of resources.
While some see it as the cost of doing business, you need to look at factors that could cut the no-show rate. While there were many factors in patients’ individual lives that contribute to no-show rates, look for improvements you can make in the organization. The goal was to design an intervention to address every roadblock that kept a patient from receiving healthcare.
Here are four interventions that you can adopt:
1. Educate patients on the importance of showing up for appointments
From a clinical standpoint, patients who keep their appointments tend to do better. For example, clinicians can talk to diabetic patients about the importance of coming in to get their sugar levels checked and the consequences of neglecting their health, such as the possibility of amputated toes or loss of eyesight.
Additionally, remind patients how to properly cancel or reschedule an appointment at virtually every point of contact. This information should be included in reminder phone calls made one day prior to the scheduled appointment, in multi-lingual signs at the clinic, in one-on-one conversations during appointments and in phone calls following a no-show.
The practice manager and front desk staff should verify each patient receives a reminder call. Staff can use a script that made it clear to patients how to cancel or reschedule appointments. At a minimum, you should contact every no-show patient within two days of missed appointments to talk to them about rescheduling.
2. Prioritize patient accessibility and answer every incoming call
Sometimes a communication problem occurs because at times a patient cannot get through to the clinic. incoming calls should ring on all front desk phones and all staff should be encouraged to answer any phone, even it’s not at their assigned space. Rather than an automated system, make sure a person answers the phone. Given the stakes involved, you need to have a dedicated person that just picks up the phone and directs the call.
3. Increase internal awareness and attention
It was important to create a heightened awareness about the no-show problem and get buy-in from everyone. Send out a weekly report on no-show rates to all healthcare professionals and office staff. The reports keeps the issue in people’s minds and celebrated successes when no-show rates decline. Everyone, from the receptionist at the front desk to the providers should know it is their job to be part of the solution to reduce no shows.
4. Look to change your appointment reminder solution
Is your current appointment reminder solution working or not? If not, a very good automated patient reminder for appointments I recommend is Solutionreach; my clients have been very pleased with it and its effectiveness in reduced no show rates: