“No-shows” — patients who miss their reserved appointment — are more than just a minor inconvenience. Their actions can result in lost revenue, decreased productivity and increased costs, since you spread your fixed overhead costs across fewer visits. Even a small no-show percentage (the average is 5–7 percent) can have a tremendous impact on the bottom line. If you receive $100 per visit and have two no-shows per day, your revenue could decrease by $50,000 every year.
How do you minimize patient no-shows? Here are six strategies that you can use to improve the efficiency of your practice.
1. Charge for Missed Appointments
No-show charges send a clear message that your time and services cost money; however, they can also alienate patients. Some of them will look elsewhere for treatment or vent their frustration on social media after incurring a no-show charge. This type of negative publicity could damage your reputation over time. Unless it’s going to have a noticeably positive impact, it may be better to reserve missed-visit charges for exceptional cases.
2. Use Automated Appointment Reminders
Sending automated appointment reminders through your practice management system is a cost-effective way to improve patient compliance, especially if you send the message via the patients’ preferred communication method – text, email or telephone. Texting, in particular, makes it easy for patients to cancel appointments and has helped some practices reduce their no-show rate by 10 to 20 percent.
3. Make Appointment Reminder Calls
Research by the American Medical Association suggests that patients are even more likely to show up for their appointments when they get a telephone call from the office as opposed to a message from a machine. Human appointment reminder calls were shown to cut the no-show rate from an average of 23 percent to around 13 percent. It’s a good idea to make these calls around two days in advance so you have time to reschedule the slot.
4. Target the Patients Who Frequently Miss Appointments
Every office has a handful of known offenders — patients who have a long history of unexcused absences. Targeting them can make dramatic inroads into your overall no-show rate. If laying down the law doesn’t work, you could try collecting a $50 non-refundable deposit from these patients at the time of booking. Alternatively, give them the last appointment of the day so you can close the office if they don’t show up.
5. Overbook Patients
If no-shows comprise a significant proportion of your appointment schedule — say, 10 percent or more — consider double booking by a similar percentage. This strategy is particularly effective if you tailor your overbooking to the days or times of the week that are more prone to no-shows. A word of caution: there will be days when everyone shows up. This can leave staff and patients in the lurch, resulting in high-stress levels and poor patient experiences. Be aware that if overbooking requires patients to wait extended periods for care, there’s a greater chance that they won’t show up for their next appointment.
6. Make Changing Appointments Easier
If appointments are convenient to reschedule, patients are more likely to attend. Online scheduling, for example, allows patients to see openings and book the time immediately, increasing the likelihood that they will show up. Today’s software can also access a patient’s history at the time of scheduling so that if they are among those who frequently miss appointments, the system can double-book that time slot on the schedule.
No-show fees are not the only, and perhaps not even the best, method of discouraging no-shows, and it’s usually better to have multiple strategies in place to help ensure patients meet their commitments. Appointment reminders, overbooking, online scheduling and targeting your repeat offenders should reduce your no-shows dramatically and lead to a more efficient experience for patients, physicians and staff.
Contact the team of medical CPAs at GPP to for further information on how to make your practice more financially successful.