Guest Column | December 12, 2019

5 Ways To Reduce No-Shows

By Jim Higgins, Solutionreach

Missed Appointments

Everyone hates it when patients fail to show up to their appointment. It throws off the schedule and hurts the bottom line. But have you ever stopped to think about what the average no-show rate is for your specialty? Or what your no-show rate is in comparison? There can be quite a variation, but patient no-show rates typically range anywhere from five percent to 30 percent or more. Here are a few averages for some of the most common healthcare specialties:

These no-shows can lead to incredible losses for your healthcare organization. The average value of a single visit for these specialties ranges from $125 to $350. Let’s do the math. Consider a pediatric office, for instance. If they see only 75 patients a day (the majority average 100+) at $125 per appointment and have a no-show rate of 20 percent, they would lose $37,500 each month from no-shows. It’s likely most organizations are losing thousands or even tens of thousands every month due to no-show patients.

What is your average no-show rate compared to the national average?

How does that number compare to the national average no-show rate for your specialty? Are you higher than the average? Are you doing well? Making even small improvements to your no-show rate can have a big impact on your bottom line. And while not every no-show can be eliminated (a great goal is to try to keep your no-show rate at five percent or less), there are a few ways every healthcare organization can significantly cut those numbers.

  1. Understand the reasons patients don't show up for their appointments…and address them! While every situation is unique, the majority of missed visits are due to the following reasons:
  • They forget. This is one of the top reasons patients fail to show. Fortunately, this is a pretty easy issue to address and where appointment reminders come in really handy. Patients who receive appointment reminders are far more likely to show up than those that do not. 
  • Finances. Let's face it. Healthcare can be expensive! A couple of ideas to address this issue include offering healthcare credit such as Care Credit or by letting patients pay through payment plans. 
  • Last minute conflicts. There will always be times when something happens at the last minute that prevents a patient from making their appointment. Be sure to make it easy for patients to let you know about these issues. Two-way texting is the best for this. And then once they've canceled, use a wait-list system to get that appointment filled ASAP. 
  1. Follow up on missed appointments
    No-shows happen to everyone at some point. Even the most conscientious patient may accidentally forget an appointment or double book themselves. Whenever a patient fails to come to an appointment, send them a message encouraging them to contact you right away to reschedule. You also can use this as a chance to remind them of your missed appointment policy.
     
  2. Use multiple reminder methods
    When patients initially schedule appointments, ask them which method(s) of contact they prefer. Do they have a home phone number? A cell phone number? Do they want a phone call or a text message? Or would they prefer receiving an email reminder? You can ask patients for their preferred method as well as their additional method of contact to make it as easy as possible to prevent them from becoming a no-show.
     
  3. Don’t overbook
    With as busy as people are these days, asking a patient to wait 20 to 40 minutes or more for an appointment will increase the likelihood of them opting out of future appointments. If patients don’t feel you value their time, they are less likely to value yours. They are also more likely to not show up in the future if they fear they will be stuck waiting.
     
  4. Get patients in to be seen as soon as possible
    Patients are more likely to forget an appointment and become a no-show the further out they have to schedule that appointment. Without double-booking, try to work new patients in as soon as possible as well as patients who may have an urgent need. This builds patient loyalty while cutting down on the risk of no-shows.

While no-show appointments may be an inevitable part of every healthcare organization’s workflow, this does not mean efforts should not be made to cut back on them wherever possible. Even improving your no-show rate by four or five percent can lead to large increases in revenue. Make it a point to focus on cutting no-shows and you will reap the rewards.

About The Author

Jim Higgins is the founder & CEO of Solutionreach. You can follow him on Twitter: @higgs77