Practices look to lower costly no-show patient rates

Waiting room
No-show patients are an age-old problem for physician practices.

No-show patients are a major frustration for many physician practices, causing a loss of revenue and gaps in scheduling.

The stakes are high: No-show patients could cost practices billions in revenue nationwide, according to one recent report. Other strategies practices have used to help ensure patients show up is to charge them a fee for missed appointments and to use online scheduling to allow patients to book their own appointment.

More than 90% of medical practices use reminders to help prevent patient no-shows, a new poll by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) found. Practices are relying on technology to communication with patients, with more than half of practices using a combination of emails, texts and phone calls to remind patients about their appointments.

Most of the 1,279 respondents said they sent reminders two days in advance of the appointment regardless of the method they use to communicate with patients, the MGMA said.

MGMA no show graphic

MGMA members said a number of factors can play into patient no-show rates, according to comments on the association’s discussion board. “I found a high correlation between number of days [to get an appointment] and no shows. The longer it took for the patients to see the doctor, the higher the no-show rate,” said Frank Cohen, director of analytics, at Doctors Management LLC in Spring Hill, Florida.

Practices with a high no-show rate should reevaluate their appointment notification system to make sure they can send reminders and confirm patient appointments. One MGMA member, Jeffrey Rydburg, said his practice’s no-show rate is more than 10% if unable to contact a patient with a reminder.

That drops to about 6% with an appointment reminder and even more, less than 3%, if the patient confirms his or her appointment. That confirmation creates a psychological agreement between the patient and the practice, he said.