Patient no-shows are a problem for every healthcare organization. An entire organization may face operational and financial difficulties if up to 30% of patients fail to show up for their appointments. No-shows alone cost the healthcare sector in the United States billions of dollars annually in lost revenue and patient attrition.
Healthcare organizations must address no-shows head-on for all of these reasons and more.
Patient no-shows are one of the "most important problems faced by health centers today," according to a study on the state of the healthcare system. Medical practices and health systems across the globe struggle with this problem. When patients miss appointments, care suffers—as does the financial health of the provider organizations that are supposed to be serving them.
There are many reasons why patients don't show up for their appointments, like poor Practice Management skills, staff burnouts and others, some of which might not be preventable. However, there are a number of tools that healthcare organizations can use to make sure that patients are aware of their appointment time and confirm that they intend to attend.
Patients can keep track of their appointments and prevent last-minute surprises by self-scheduling, receiving frequent appointment reminders, practicing better practice management and maintaining consistent communication. Automation can make sure that these proactive measures don't burden staff members further.
But there is a better way: Use a more up-to-date appointment scheduling strategy to interact with patients before, during, and after their visit (or no-show). Because patients are more likely to keep appointments when they feel respected and valued while receiving care, positive, consistent patient engagement reduces no-shows.
How to create a patient-powered digital experience to decrease no-shows
Allowing patients to set their own appointment times will empower them.
Many healthcare organizations still call every patient to schedule an appointment. Call centers for scheduling appointments may become overburdened as a result, creating lengthy wait times and a negative patient experience overall.
Online self-scheduling is a technologically advanced substitute that makes making an appointment quick and simple. In order to help patients remember their upcoming appointment, many scheduling tools let them add their appointment to their calendar app. Self-scheduling by patients lowers staff administrative workload while also minimizing no-shows. As a result, when patients do need to call their provider's office, they will not have to wait as long, which will ultimately increase patient satisfaction.
To decrease no-shows, send automated appointment reminders.
A study found that when parents of pediatric patients received a text message in addition to a phone call reminder, no-show rates decreased by more than 14%. Reminders are essential for reducing no-show rates. However, manually calling or texting patients can be extremely time-consuming for staff. By automating appointment reminders, staff can focus on more difficult tasks while still ensuring that patients receive consistent outreach.
Additionally, if patients receive multiple reminders prior to an appointment, they have ample time to confirm or reschedule, which can help avoid no-shows and last-minute cancellations. Patients' rising expectations for technologically advanced healthcare services are met by reminding them of their upcoming appointments via text or email, which also boosts organizational effectiveness.
A link in the email or a text reply should be used in outreach messaging to ask patients to confirm or cancel their appointment. Online appointment "self-canceling" is recommended just like appointment self-scheduling. If a patient needs to call to cancel an appointment during business hours, they might wait until it's too late.
Prevent missing appointments by converting upcoming visits to telehealth.
Although high no-show rates for in-person appointments are problematic for patient outcomes—as well as the organization's bottom line—data indicates that virtual visits may be helpful.
Offer a telemedicine consultation
A telehealth visit at a primary and specialty care clinic had a no-show rate of just 7.5%, which is four times lower than the typical in-office no-show rate prior to the pandemic, according to a Telemedicine and e-Health study carried out between March and May 2020. The study found that during the pandemic's peak, these rate contrasts were even more stark.
Offer a telehealth visit when sending appointment reminders or responding to cancellations if a patient says they won't be able to make it to the office or if they have concerns about COVID-19 risks. Offering a telemedicine consultation option ensures that the patient receives the necessary care while also retaining payment for their visit.
Automate the cancellation process to quickly fill open slots
Though they can't always be avoided, no-shows and last-minute cancellations can be handled more effectively. The process of calling patients to fill cancellations may take staff members hours each day, but automation can complete the task in a matter of minutes with no staff involvement.
With an automated schedule-management system, cancellations can be used as opportunities. The tool detects other clinically relevant patients with upcoming appointments and automatically texts them offering the earlier, reopened appointment slot when a patient cancels a visit. There are no waitlist sign-ups, apps, portals, or staff duties necessary; the first patient to respond will be given that appointment.
It's crucial to follow up with patients after a cancellation or no-show, not only to keep them as patients but also to address any urgent medical needs they may have before they worsen. After a missed appointment, calling the patient within 24 hours can keep them interested in your care. To emphasize that your provider wants to address their unmet medical needs as soon as possible, make sure that your follow-up messages demonstrate compassion and understanding.
By providing patients with upcoming time slots for self-scheduling or enabling them to request an appointment with a single click, technology and templated messaging can help automate this process and encourage patients to reschedule as soon as possible.