How to Reduce No-Show Appointments and Improve Small Practice Revenue

by:
on March 21, 2019

If you run a small or independent medical practice, you know how frustrating patient no-shows can be. It not only wastes valuable time—it also hurts your revenue.

In 2017, Healthcare Innovation found that the U.S. health care industry was losing $150 billion annually due to patient no-shows. Depending on the specialty, no-show rates can range from 5 to 30 percent of total patient visits, and each no-show costs a physician about $125 to $350.

According to different studies, the average patient no-show rates for common health care specialties are as follows:

Average patient no-show rate graphic

No-shows mean significant losses for your small practice. That’s why it’s necessary to identify why patients miss their appointments. It will help you understand what measures to implement for reducing no-shows.

In this article, we list the common reasons behind patient no-shows. Read on to understand how you can reduce no-show appointments in your small or independent practice using medical software.

Common Reasons for Patient No-Shows

There’s no doubt that patient no-shows are annoying and disruptive for physicians. Your staff plans your day based on appointments and prepares for various procedures or examinations, only to see all these efforts wasted because a patient didn’t show up.

It’s possible that patients have no clue about the financial consequences of no-shows on a small medical practice.

As a practice, put yourself in your patients’ shoes to understand why they miss appointments. Empathize with their situation and help them resolve issues that result in no-shows.

Griffin Faculty Physicians and Griffin Hospital Wellness Clinic surveyed patients who had missed scheduled appointments and found the following reasons for no-shows:

Reasons for patient no-shows graphic

The study shows that patients forgetting or not knowing about their appointments is the biggest contributor to patient no-shows. Though they could set personal reminders on their mobile devices, there’s still a chance that they will forget.

Another major reason is personal or work issues. Even if they remember their appointment, they could be too busy to take out time to visit the practice.

Then there’s lack of transportation. In some cases, patients rely on public transport, such as a bus or train, which could be delayed or canceled. Or they depend on a family member/friend who canceled at the last minute. Or there could be heavy traffic en route to the practice.

While completely eliminating no-shows may not be possible, you can take steps to significantly lower the number and increase your small practice’s revenue stream. Let’s discuss these steps in our next section.

Ways to Reduce No-Shows at Your Small Medical Practice

Efficient patient scheduling is the heartbeat of your medical practice, and patient no-shows are the biggest threat that you need to remove. Though you can’t completely eliminate no-shows, you can significantly reduce the number in a few effective ways.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Use automatic reminders: According to the Griffin survey, the biggest cause of no-shows is patients forgetting their appointments. To fix this, practices should send automatic reminders to the patients. Appointment reminder software can help you remind patients about their upcoming appointments via phone call, text message or email at specified dates and time before the appointment.

2. Minimize wait room time: Asking a patient to wait an additional 20 to 30 minutes will increase the likelihood of them making you wait or canceling future appointments. Respect your patients’ time. Use patient scheduling software to schedule accurately and avoid long wait times. If patients see that you value their time, they will value yours.

Use this daily patient volume calculator to avoid overbooking:

3. Introduce discounted prepaid appointments: Offer discounts to patients who are willing to pay in advance for their appointment. When patients pay for an appointment, they are more likely to show up. Offering additional discounts will prompt them to come to your practice again.

4. Message patients who miss their appointment: In most cases, patients don’t want to miss their appointments. But when it happens, message them about how you missed them and ask them to reschedule soon. Make sure to explain your policy on no-shows or missed appointments (including any penalties) and penalty exemptions if they reschedule within a specific time period.

5. Reward patients who are punctual: Acknowledge and reward patients who never miss their appointments, so that they show up on time for future appointments as well. For instance, make them eligible for a monthly drawing to win a gift card. These measures can help you build patient loyalty.

Pro-tip: Both appointment reminder and patient scheduling tools can be jointly purchased in practice management software.

Using the steps mentioned above, you can significantly reduce patient no-shows and cancellations to increase your patient retention numbers and practice revenue.

Case Study: How Software Can Reduce No-Shows

Here’s an example of how a multi-specialty medical practice used software to reduce patient no-shows and increase its revenue.

case study graphic

Valley Medical Group, a multi-specialty medical group in Massachusetts, turned to the QueueDr patient scheduling system to manage last-minute appointment cancellations by patients.

CHALLENGE: Valley Medical Group was struggling to manage last-minute cancellations and no-shows. Their staff was overwhelmed with various other tasks and didn’t have time to fill-in for the cancellations.

SOLUTION: They selected and deployed the QueueDr patient scheduling system to free up staff and automatically manage no-shows. The system does the following tasks:

  • When a patient doesn’t show up or cancels their appointment, the system finds patients scheduled for future slots with similar appointment types, in terms of specialty or physician.
  • The system automatically sends a text message to these patients, asking them whether they are available during the currently available slots.
  • The first person to respond is automatically moved up to the available slot.
  • Other patients who respond later get a text message for missing out such as “Sorry, you missed it. We’ll try you again soon.”
  • The practice/physician can easily see which patient will come in a specific open spot once the system fills that slot.

RESULTS: There was a marked improvement in Valley Medical Group’s patient scheduling process after deploying the software. The main highlights included the following:

  • Patient no-shows decreased by 20 percent.
  • Cancellation filling increased fivefold over when manually done by the staff.
  • The average time to fill cancellations dropped to just 7.4 minutes.
  • Monthly phone calls made by staff to patients decreased by almost 1,000 calls.

Conclusion and Next Steps

As this article shows, there are various reasons why patient no-shows occur. But there are effective ways to reduce them.

Small medical practices and solo physicians should use technology/software to reduce no-shows, eliminate unnecessary patient wait times and improve practice revenue. It would ensure that you remind and update patients about their appointments well in time.

So, what can you do next to achieve very few (or zero) no-shows? Being a small practice, we know you’ve got limited budget and resources. Keeping that in mind, here is what you should do next:

  • Deploy appointment reminder software to eliminate the burden of manually reminding patients about upcoming appointments.
  • Deploy patient scheduling software to schedule your patients accurately and reduce long wait times for them.
  • If you have a bigger budget, consider going for a practice management solution that includes both appointment reminder and patient scheduling tools. It could also offer various other features such as automatic billing, claims management and reporting.
  • For any other questions related to software that supports your appointment or scheduling needs, call us at (844) 686-5616 for a free consultation with a medical software advisor.

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