The Clinician’s Guide to Reducing No Show Appointments

Effective patient scheduling is the foundation of a successful medical practice. No-show appointments bring down the overall clinical efficiency and adversely affect the practice’s bottom line.

Missed appointments cost the U.S. Healthcare industry upwards of $150 billion every year.

Every healthcare practitioner dreams of 100 percent efficiency in the clinical practice but eliminating all patient no-shows is a virtually impossible task.

Reducing the number of no-shows is another story altogether and can be successfully accomplished.

Understanding the Reasons Behind Patient No-Shows

The reasons for patient no-shows are fairly common. Knowing why patients miss their appointments can give you an upper hand when eliminating them. Here are the most common causes of no-show appointments.

  1. Forgetfulness
  2. Conveyance issues
  3. Non-urgent appointments/ follow-ups
  4. Anxiety related to the visit
  5. Time constraints

Fortunately, a number of these reasons are manageable, and reducing the resultant adverse effects and subsequent no-shows are in the hands of the clinicians.

Tips on How to Reduce No-Show Appointments

1. Aim for effective scheduling

If you are still relying on conventional calendars and diaries for scheduling patient appointments, you are missing out on the opportunity and failing to use technology to your advantage.

Making online scheduling software a part of your digital health strategy makes life easier for the patients as well as practitioners.

It saves time and money for the clinical practice, adds an element of convenience for the patients and lays down the foundation of good patient experience.

The use of appointment scheduling software allows for 24-hour scheduling as the patients do not have to be confined to the office hours for booking an appointment.

It also provides clear visualization of the slots available which facilitates efficient scheduling. Whether you are choosing to have a patient appointment scheduling software custom developed or market-ready solutions, it should integrate with the existing systems within your clinical practice.

2. Identify the segment that frequently misses appointments

Technology gives you access to vital patient data and insights which can be utilized to streamline the clinical workflow. A majority of missed appointments can be attributed to a specific segment of patients.

Using data from the scheduling software to identify the frequent no-shows can be a powerful tool to eliminate no-shows.

Rather than making a blanket policy, target only the patients who consistently miss appointments. Historical data in the scheduling software can help pinpoint the patients who are at high risk for not showing up to the appointments.

Preplanning, sending reminders in advance and having alternate appointments in place in case there is a no show can help you stay two steps ahead in managing an effective schedule.

3.  Use telemedicine for streamlining workflow

Not every consultation needs to be in-person. Follow-up appointments, regular consultations and even emergency treatment advice during out of office hours, telemedicine makes it all possible.

When leveraged effectively, telemedicine can be a vital asset in streamlining your clinical workflow.

Since the patients do not have to visit your office for a consultation, the chances that they will miss out on their appointment is low.

Online appointments also eliminate any fear or anxiety associated with the visit and are generally viewed more favorably by the patients.

With governments and regulatory authorities rapidly moving telemedicine mainstream in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, leveraging technology to your advantage and being among the forerunners in adopting telemedicine can help you streamline your clinical workflow, reduce operational overheads and cut down on no-show appointments.

4. Automate the reminder calls in advance

We live in a very busy world where it is easy to lose track of time and date and forget about medical appointments.

As to-do lists and calendars make their way into the palm of hands through smartphones, technology needs to step up to automate reminders to patients, ensuring that they don’t miss out on their appointments.

If you have a custom developed mobile application for your practice, you can send out push notifications reminding the patients of their upcoming appointment.

Using automation, you can send out messages and mails in advance with minimum efforts from your end and in the least time-consuming manner.

Instead of sending templated messages, make sure that the automated reminders you send out are personalized for better reception.

5. Don’t wait for patients to schedule follow-up appointments

Even with the best efforts, completely eliminating no show appointments is not possible. When they do take place, don’t wait for the patients to call up or schedule an appointment.

Sending up messages proactively and suggesting they schedule an appointment leads to better patient engagement.

A call within half an hour of a missed appointment saying the following can really ensure high engagement rates.

Hi (patient’s name) It looks like we missed you today. We had you scheduled for (time). appointment today and didn’t see you. You may be on your way and running a little late, but if not, we want to make sure that you book the next appointment at a time that is suitable for you.”

You can also send automated messages and add a link to the appointment scheduling website or app within the message which the patient can follow and instantaneously book a slot for themselves.

6. Try and minimize wait times

Long wait times can be a deterrent for patients and are a contributing factor to no show appointments. Scheduling the existing appointments and spacing them for optimal efficiency can help reduce the chances of patient no-shows.

If the wait time exceeds 20 minutes, the patient’s likelihood of opting out of future appointments increases exponentially. The no show eventually turns into a lost patient and results in negative word of mouth.

Closing words

Effective scheduling is the backbone of clinical success. Using technology to streamline appointments, automate reminders and follow ups facilitate healthcare delivery has proven to boost patient engagement rates.

Your practice needs to formulate an effective digital health strategy to mitigate clinical workload and add value to the patients. Arkenea has over a decade of experience as a healthcare software development company, and is an expert in the field of healthcare software. Get in touch to discuss your development needs today.