June 21, 2021
If your practice is struggling with patient no-shows, you are not alone. No-show averages range from 15-30%, depending on the medical specialty. There are many reasons patients do not keep appointments. Some simply forget about the appointment. Others have personal and professional time conflicts. Transportation issues and communication issues can also play a role. Regardless of your particular no-show rate or the reasons why your patients miss appointments, no-shows have significant economic consequences. According to a white paper by Medbridge Transport, missed appointments cost the average single-physician practice $150,000 annually. No-shows also have many downstream effects that negatively impact both providers and patients. Fortunately, there are many strategies to minimize patient no-shows at your facility.
More frequent patient communication is a great way to reduce no-shows. Automated patient reminders are an effective way to communicate with your patients more often without placing additional burden on your staff. For example, automated text messages, phone calls, and emails delivered at a time of day convenient to the patient reduce the need for repeated phone calls to remind patients about their upcoming appointment. One medical practice using our Patient Communications Gateway immediately reduced no-show appointment rates by 8% after switching from staff calls to our text-reminder system.
Every patient is different. Some prefer a call; others prefer an email or text message. We find that the most effective way to reach patients is to use multiple channels and give patients the option to opt-out of the communication methods they do not prefer. Using a combination of an automated calls, emails, and text messages that remind patients of their appointment time and location can reduce no-show rates by 50%.
Many practices only send an appointment reminder once, 48 hours before the appointment. This “one-and-done” approach does not allow patients ample time to prepare. For example, your patient may need to shift their schedule to ensure they can attend the appointment they made 3 months ago. Stand-alone appointment reminders are correlated with several no-shows per day (meaning lost revenue). In addition to lost revenue, no–shows can also lead to physician burnout as many offices tend to overbook to compensate from expected no shows, thus over-burdening physicians and office staff.
In addition to reminding your patients about their upcoming appointments, you can also maximize efficiency and improve patient experience by helping your patients prepare for their appointments. For example, you may alert your patient that they need to update their account information or remedy an outstanding balance. Communicating a patient pre-visit plan helps ensure your patients arrive prepared, thus decreasing long check-in lines and rushed patient visits.
Practices that wait to remind a patient 48 hours before an appointment have limited options to fill the vacated appointment. Many basic reminder systems that leave messages cannot capture a response if there is no answer to the call. Then patients are typically forced to call the office the next day or just not show up. Starting the notification process a week or more in advance improves the chances of booking another patient.
Downstream impacts of patient no–shows hurt both medical staff and patients. No-shows cause more than “just” lost revenue. Overcompensating for no-shows can lead to overbooked schedules, rushed patient visits, and long check-in lines. The best prevention for no-shows is proactive communication. Since patient communication needs are different for every practice, it is important to have a customizable patient communication tool such as our Patient Communications Gateway (PCG) to help your practice set up automatic triggers. These triggers make attending and rescheduling appointments convenient for your patients and help your providers spend more time serving patients.
PCG By Micro-Office Systems is a complete patient engagement system to manage patient communications, notifications, and interactions, and improve private medical practices. Learn more and click to schedule a demo.