In part one of our series on patient no-shows, we established the most common causes of missed appointments. As practices look to drive down their rate of no-shows, there are several strategies we see practices put into place that seem promising, but ultimately aren’t effective, and in some cases have the opposite effect and drive patients away from the practice.
Here are the top five things not to do to reduce patient no-shows:
- Charge no-show fees
Up to 25% of practices charge some kind of no-show fee. But, often, patients report that they were not made aware of this penalty in advance, meaning it had no impact on their decision to attend the appointment, but did risk causing negative feelings toward the practice.
- Remind patients with robocalls
With the rise in frequency of spam calls, many people don’t answer phone calls from unknown numbers. Establishing an appointment reminder system is extremely important, as we’ll discuss in part 3 of this series, but it’s important to go beyond just automated phone calls.
- Double book appointments
Similar to airlines, some practices will book multiple patients for the same timeslot with a given provider. When implemented well, at best, this can slightly reduce overall no-show rates, but often, the net result is frustrated patients and overworked schedulers and providers, who have to manage situations where both patients arrive for their scheduled appointment.
- Make it hard to cancel
Oftentimes, to cancel an appointment, a patient has to search for a practice’s phone number, and then wait on hold for an extended period of time in order to interact with a member of the scheduling team. In these situations, it’s much more likely that a patient will simply give up and no-show their appointment, rather than spending time waiting to connect with the practice.
- Have long wait times between scheduling and actual occurrence of appointments
A 2017 study found the average wait time for a physician appointment for a new patient was 24.1 days. In that nearly month-long gap, patients may become sicker and require hospitalization, or may lose track of the context of what the appointment was for, and deem it no longer necessary.
Each of these five strategies are often attractive on the surface, but turn out to be ineffective in combating patient no-show rates. In part three of our series, we’ll look at several techniques that are effective in reducing missed appointments.