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Healthcare Practice Strategies - Winter 2013 - No More Waiting: How to Prevent No-Shows

Studies consistently show that the longer a patient has to wait for an appointment, the more likely he or she is to cancel or simply not show up. And as healthcare reform substantially increases the number of newly insured patients, experts predict that no-shows may soar as patients tire of full schedules and long lead times for appointments.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize no-shows in your practice.

  • Get (all) their phone numbers. Make sure you can always get in touch with patients by requesting three phone numbers: work and cell numbers in addition to their home phone. At the very least, be sure to ask for the “best” number.
     
  • Consider accepting appointment requests online. Many practice management systems offer functionality that allows patients to make initial appointment requests online. Then, your front office staff simply follows up to confirm a date and time.
     
  • Make it easy to cancel. Knowing about a cancellation upfront is always better than the surprise of an unexpected no-show. So provide clear instructions (and several means, if possible) for patients to cancel. Be sure to follow up promptly and give patients the opportunity to reschedule.
     
  • Mine your waiting list. Maintain a list of patients who would like an earlier appointment than the one already scheduled for them. Use this list to fill the open slots that inevitably occur in a daily schedule.
     
  • Tap your EHR system. Some electronic health record (EHR) and practice management systems can integrate into a patient reminder system, sending out e-mails, phone calls and text messages to remind patients of their appointments. The optimal time to send out reminders is typically 36 hours in advance.
     
  • Consider an automated system. If you don’t think you can cost-justify an automated reminder system, do the math on how many no-shows you experience daily and compare that lost revenue with the cost of a system. Both in-house and online systems are available, and you could potentially see a payback with the first reminded patient.
     
  • Target potentially troublesome patients. Patients who are most likely to miss their appointments include those who have been given an appointment more than 150 days out, who have previously canceled appointments, who are scheduled for a procedure and new patients. Consider tracking no-shows to determine which demographics or payer types have a history of missed appointments. Then make sure they are aware of your office cancellation and no-show policies.

Of course, you’ll want to carefully document missed appointments in patients’ charts. No-shows can be a significant liability for your practice, so it may make sense to consult with your malpractice carrier for recommended protocols.

Healthcare Practice Strategies – Winter 2013 Issue

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