Every healthcare practice experiences missed appointments, whereby an appointment has been booked, but the patient does not show up. The reasons for this range from simple forgetfulness to family emergency.
Often new patients have high rates of missed appointments because you haven’t had the opportunity to establish a practitioner-patient relationship. Sometimes the patient is not satisfied with a previous treatment and decides not to return, but does not want to cause trouble by discussing the situation.
Whatever the reason, missed appointments mean lost revenue for your practice, can delay the diagnosis because of inconsistent monitoring and treatment, and can keep other patients from seeing you.
Keeping a blocked, well-managed schedule with limited patient waiting times is the first step to reducing missed appointments. Developing a list of patients able to come at short notice and fill in the gaps created by missed appointments is a way to lessen the effects. Try to fit in new patients in a timely manner, as often new patients miss their appointments because they have managed to find another practitioner who could see them sooner.
Despite all efforts, some patients will fail to keep their appointments, and a minority will do this repeatedly. One technique for dealing with repeat offenders is to schedule them during a time that has less of an effect to the overall schedule, such as the last appointment of the day. A warning letter (with or without an associated fee), can also be very effective.
The implementation of patient reminders, either through personal calls or via technology solutions, can go a long way to ensuring that patients commit to appointments. Appointments are often made weeks or months in advance, so patients are likely to forget them. Personal calls are more effective than automated ones, but are more labour-intensive, especially on a busy day the office. Automated text and email reminders can be helpful. To avoid these being ignored, make sure the patient is required to respond, even with a simple ‘yes’ message, confirming the appointment.