Industry Voices—4 recommendations to decrease patient no-shows

Doctor looking at time
No-shows leave physicians and other clinicians frustrated and cost practices money. (iStock/Getty Images)

Physician practices want to decrease patient no-shows, and there are lots of ideas on how to do so.

No-shows result in frustrated physicians and clinicians and lead to unrealized revenue for a practice. However, there are many misconceptions about what causes no-shows.

Here are some solutions that I have found actually work to curb the problem.

1. Improve patient access

Take advantage of new technology to improve patient access and decrease no-shows. There are now schedule management solutions that use software and artificial intelligence. It should be your first step.

Open access scheduling is another way to improve patient access. A practice leaves 30% of the schedule open daily for new patient appointments.

2. Ban bad patients

Practices may want to drop repeat offenders. If patients are no-shows four or more times, they are out. Keep a list of these patients on hand. This isn’t always an option for practices, but if there are other practices in the area that a patient can go to, recommend that they do so.

3. Encourage cancellations

Ask patients who don’t need to be seen to cancel appointments to increase access for those who need an appointment. I am stealing this brilliant idea from a customer of ours. Encourage established patients who don’t need to see the doctor to cancel their appointments. That way you have slots open up with enough provider time to fill them.

RELATED: Practices look to lower costly no-show patient rates

4. Work to develop relationships with patients

Create processes and procedures that enable the entire staff to create a relationship with the patient, not just the physician. The last time I called the doctor’s office for an appointment, the response from the scheduler was not, “Awesome, we’d love to have you" or even “Sounds great, let me help you.” It was, “What’s your birth date?” Needless to say, I did not feel like a valued customer of this practice.

Here are some other ways you can encourage relationship development throughout the entire patient life cycle:

  • Know the patient’s name. Have front office staff print the daily schedule and have it in front of them so they can greet patients by name instead of greeting them with a request to "put your name down on the list please." Similarly, thank them for coming when they leave.
  • Enable your staff to go the extra mile and make sure that patients are comfortable. Train staff on how you expect them to treat patients and also give them the power to make a positive impact on someone's day.

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Very small touches by front office staff can make a big difference in patient loyalty. Improved patient loyalty means fewer no-shows.

My conclusion? No-shows are not usually caused by patients failing to be reminded of appointments, but that seems to be the first solution that practices reach for. Instead, no-shows are a patient’s way of telling your practice that something is wrong with the patient experience. By improving the patient experience and banning frequent no-shows, healthcare organizations can drop their no-show rate dramatically.