Has your practice ever been stood up? The answer is probably “yes.” People fail to show up for appointments for a variety of reasons: lack of transportation, desire to avoid long wait times, lack of medical literacy, and language barriers. Then, there are the standard offenders who simply forget they made the appointment in the first place. No matter the cause, people who skip scheduled time with a provider not only sacrifice needed medical care, but also cause their clinician’s practice or facility to lose revenue.
If you’re a manager, administrator, or another healthcare leader, you may be searching for a way to curb this behavior. Below, we share five tips to eliminate patient no-shows. You may find some to be a better fit for your practice, hospital, or clinic. However, using a combination of these strategies should lead to improvements in patient health and satisfaction as well as fewer no-shows at your organization.
- Remind your patients about their appointments—frequently
A simple method for improving your no-show rate is to inquire about patients’ communication preferences prior to scheduling their appointments. Do they prefer texts or emails? Phone calls? Consider incorporating automated reminders via their favorite communication channel.
Now, you can easily provide patients with swift and thoughtful reminders. Many patients regard these communications to be helpful for either remembering they made an appointment or remembering to reschedule.
- Provide timely access to care
Patients don’t like waiting. High wait times can have a great impact on satisfaction and cause some patients to skip an appointment, particularly if they have back-to-back appointments.
Patients who are punctual typically expect to be seen on time. Although the best solution is to limit (or eliminate) the issue, sometimes it’s unavoidable. When patients are kept waiting, there are things you can do to ease their exasperation, such as offering a sincere apology; telling them how long they can expect to wait; giving them the option to see another provider more quickly, if one is available; and providing a comfortable waiting area with a TV, complimentary snacks and beverages, and/or Wi-Fi.
Thoroughly assess the appointment time and make appropriate adjustments, if you can. Consider collecting patient information when a patient schedules the appointment instead of gathering it when the patient arrives. And, most importantly, try to make sure you’re fully staffed to manage your daily census. Consider adding more physicians or advanced practitioners to your team and/or using locum tenens staffing services to meet the needs of an influx of patients—during flu season—or when members of your permanent staff take vacation or maternity/paternity leave.
- Keep an eye on the no-shows
Tracking the number of patients who miss their appointments and informing your staff is prudent. This includes everyone in the process of what to look for and ways to improve the problem.
Depending on the information you document, you also can establish which strategies work best for your organization, if there are a greater number of no-shows at certain times of the year (and if so, why), and more. Capturing these details and using data to resolve “appointment obstacles” can help you brainstorm additional solutions, enhance communication between staff and patients, and improve patient-provider relationships, all of which strengthen patients’ commitment to your practice or facility.
- Coordinate appointment transportation
Unfortunately, 3.6 million Americans miss medical appointments annually due to lack of transportation. While having a reliable way to get to their doctor’s office or healthcare facility impacts many throughout the United States, those who experience the greatest challenges are people residing in rural or underserved areas as well as vulnerable populations, particularly those living with a chronic disease.
To address this important issue, on-demand driver services have created platforms to help healthcare providers arrange non-emergency medical transportation to and from their offices or facilities for patients in need of rides. The technology used meets HIPAA standards, and the types of services offered include flexible scheduling; simple billing, reporting, and management; real-time ride status updates; and access for patients who do not own a smartphone.
- Support and provide thorough patient education
Although missed appointments might not seem like a big deal to a patient, they could be a crucial step in preventive care. Make sure your physicians are on board, and work to create a practice or hospital that helps empower patients.
Inform patients of the significance of honoring their appointments and how to appropriately cancel or reschedule if they are unable to make them. Send well-timed reminders before an appointment, have tough conversations during appointments, make no-show follow-up calls, and employ a system of multi-lingual signs at the clinic. Then, provide staff members with scripts to ensure they not only know what to say, but how to phrase it. Using these approaches at your healthcare organization can help your facility be a partner in patient care.
Call Medicus Healthcare Solutions at 855-301-0563 for assistance with your locum tenens staffing requirements, as well as your project and resource management and transitions needs, and read our blog for helpful information and insights.