3 ways to tackle a high no-show rate

By Aine Cryts

No-show patients could cost practices billions in revenue nationwide, according to a recent Executive Insight article.

The wait to get an appointment with a physician--typically as long as 19 days--contributes to the problem, according to the article, which notes that 42 percent of patients don't show up because they feel better--but don't call to cancel their appointments.

Here are some options to solve the no-show problem:

  • Overbooking. Many primary care providers overbook appointments, assuming they can fit everyone in when some don't show up. Fred N. Pelzman, M.D, an internal medicine physician in New York City, writes on a MedPage Today commentary that his group books appointments at 140 percent of capacity. But the practice is risky. Overbooking can lead to physician burnout and stress and patients are unhappy when wait times stretch on.
  • Telephone reminders. Reminding patients 48 hours before their appointments allows Pelzman's practice to fill in schedule gaps with same-day or next-day appointments for patients with urgent needs. 
  • Warning letters. Some physicians are more tolerant of patients who continually miss appointments, writes Pelzman. Others "break up" with patients after two no-shows. He recommends a gentle reminder letter explaining that no-shows prevent patients from getting the care they need and takes up appointment time another patient could use.

No-shows not only hurt a practice's bottom line, they can also ensnare physicians in a malpractice suit, FiercePracticeMedicine has reported. In fact, lack of follow-up about missed appointments, consults or procedures is one of the most common reasons physicians are sued.

To learn more:
- read the Executive Insight article
- check out the MedPage Today commentary