How to Reduce Your Practice's Patient No-Show Rate
How to Reduce Your Practice's Patient No-Show Rate
By: Mick Polo | Read Time: 8 minutes
Both your healthcare practice and your patients lose out when patients don’t show up for their appointments. In the United States, the annual cost of patient no shows is $150 billion. On a more micro level, individual physicians lose $200 per missed time slot.
No matter how many appointments are missed, practices still have to pay for their staff, equipment, and operating costs. For patients, no shows have a direct impact on their health. By missing routine medical appointments, patients could end up with much more costly medical bills and more serious health concerns.
Additionally, patients who don’t show up for appointments are much less likely to return to the practice. A patient’s single no show increases likelihood to churn significantly.
No-shows are a serious concern. NCDS Medical Billing has solutions to help reduce your patient no-show rate.
Office Staff Should Identify Patients That Regularly Miss Appointments
The first step to helping improve no-show rates is understanding our patients. What are the barriers they’re encountering to making their appointments? We need to understand the reasons that patients don’t make their scheduled appointments. By understanding the reasons our patients miss appointments, we can put in place better methods to help keep patients on track medically.
Why Do Patients In Your Care Miss Appointments?
Sometimes it’s that simple. Patients sometimes make their appointments so far in advance that they don’t remember that they had an appointment booked. Other times, patients have a busy day and their appointment completely slips their mind.
An appointment made months in advance may no longer work for a patient’s schedule when it comes down to it. Or a patient may make an appointment at a time that wasn’t ideal for them based on physician availability that they hoped they could make work, but ultimately couldn’t.
Patients can miss appointments when they’re concerned about affording the overall cost. With 8.6% of Americans uninsured, uninsured patients are vulnerable to high healthcare costs. Even patients with health insurance may still have high payments depending on their plan.
As of 2020, 8.6% of Americans didn’t have health insurance according to the United States Census Bureau
Many patients have fears about going to see their physician. As a physician, it’s important to help calm those fears, show that you’re there to help them, and treat patients with empathy, kindness, and care.
Patients may struggle to find a way to reach your office. For example, a patient may have no transportation or their transportation source may have failed them that day. When it comes to logistical factors, commute distance, transportation access, and weather were the three biggest logistical barriers to attending appointments. According to the Journal of the American College of Radiology, no-show odds increase over 1% for each 10 mile increase in commute.
Journal of the American College of Radiology Data on Environmental Impacts to Appointments
Unable to Cancel or Reschedule
In life, sometimes things come up. A patient may have tried to get in touch to cancel or reschedule their appointment but was not able to. Make it easy for patients to make appointment changes to account for when life happens.
Talk to Your Patients
When you’ve identified patients who repeatedly miss their appointments, talk to them. Get to the bottom of their challenges, and help meet them where they are. If the reasons for their missed appointments are their fears, help calm those concerns. If it’s logistical concerns, refer them to a trusted practice closer to their home. If it’s time, work with them to find appointment slots that better fit their schedule.
NCDS SOLUTION: With customized reporting from NCDS, use a substitute CPT code for reporting only (e.g., enter “NOSHOW” in the 6-character CPT/HCPCS code field) to identify and track costly patients.
Proactively Communicate Appointment Reminders
One of the biggest barriers to attending appointments is forgetfulness. By proactively communicating appointment reminders to your patients, you can help reduce this barrier. Implementing appointment reminders is easier than ever for medical practices. Automation and multi-channel approaches help physicians save time, and help patients stay on track.
An ideal frequency and timing of appointment reminders has been found to increase appointment confirmations by 156% as found by solutionreach.com.
The additive value of a multi-message approach shown by solutionreach.com
By over-communicating an upcoming appointment, patients are much more likely to confirm their appointments and be there.
NCDS SOLUTION: With our unique and innovative system, NCDS can send phone or text reminders from your daily and weekly schedule reports, notifying patients in advance of their upcoming appointment. This will save your office staff valuable time, and greatly reduce lost revenue due to time limits being exceeded.
How do I remind patients about upcoming appointments?
Different patients have different preferred methods of communication. Provide multiple automated points of contact where patients have the power to opt in and out of communication channels based on their preferences. Some of the best communication channels for reminders are:
Reminder Phone Calls
Calls like automated voice reminders can save your team’s time. Instead of using your team’s valuable care time towards reminders, automated voice reminders saves your team’s time while simultaneously keeping patients in the loop about their upcoming appointments.
Text reminders are low lift automated reminders that can be sent at multiple points prior to an appointment. These messages are easy for patients to skim and realize that they have an appointment coming up. Text message reminders are particularly helpful for younger patients, as 83% of millennials open SMS messages within 90 seconds of receiving them according to openmarket.com.
SMS message reminder example by Zipwhip
Email is another channel to remind patients of upcoming appointments. People are much more likely to “project manage” their inbox, so email reminders help ensure your appointment is in your patients’ to-do list.
Calendar invites sent at point of schedule
By sending calendar invites and email updates to your patients when they schedule their appointments, your appointment will be in their digital calendar no matter how far out the appointment is scheduled for. For patients that live by their calendar, this will be immensely helpful.
Take the Initiative on Appointment Changes
Life happens. Sometimes, nothing can be done to avoid a conflict with a doctor’s appointment. Make sure your practice or hospital is proactively prepared to help patients through these instances without skipping necessary appointments.
Make it easy to cancel or reschedule appointments
One of the top reasons that patients don’t show up for appointments is an inability to cancel or reschedule appointments. Make it easy for your patients to get in touch to reschedule their appointments or cancel if necessary.
Popular options for modifying appointments:
- Allowing people to reschedule / cancel by calling
- Share links to reschedule / cancel in reminder emails and text messages
- Share information about how to cancel or reschedule in automated voice messages
Follow up after missed appointment
Even with great reminders and an effective scheduling process set up, a missed medical appointment still can happen. In the event a patient misses an appointment at your clinic or center, have your team follow up with this patient. Give a patient a call about rescheduling, and send a follow-up message if the patient doesn’t answer.
Be sure to explain any no-show policies, and help the patient get back on track with their appointments.
NCDS SOLUTION: With access to your EHR/Practice Management system, NCDS will be able to utilize the resources of our Phone Call & Client Service Center to exponentially increase availability to your patients as they contact our professional representatives to reschedule appointments. This means you’ll never miss a call, and your staff members will have more time to ensure patient satisfaction at your practice.
Implement Discounted Prepaid Appointments
A creative method to reduce your patient no-show rate is discounting prepaid appointments. By offering an incentive to patients who pay ahead of time, you help ensure that your patients will come to the appointment. Human behavior shows that people are more likely to act when they’ve already paid for a service to avoid sunk costs.
Prepaying for appointments has multiple benefits for both your practice and your patients:
- Patients’ appointments will be more affordable
- Patients will be more likely to receive care
- Your practice will have more guaranteed appointments
NCDS SOLUTION: By taking advantage of the NCDS Patient Login feature on our website, your patients will be able to pay online ahead of their visit, thereby avoiding the risk of them forgetting important account information at home or rushing past a busy office staff without paying
Need help reducing your patient no-show rate? Looking for help implementing solutions? Reach out to NCDS Medical Billing to help with your medical billing needs
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