Medical practices everywhere are struggling with no-show and cancellation issues, resulting in lost time, reduced revenue and even compromised patient care. We collected data from practice scheduling systems to determine no-show and cancellation rates by provider and location. The analysis revealed that all providers and locations have experienced extremely high no-show and cancellation rates, as compared with industry benchmarks.
In fact, our findings revealed that practice’s no-show rate could be as high as 20 percent, while the national benchmark is less than 10 percent.
To combat this problem, practices respond with a variety of strategies, from assessing no-show fees to overbooking schedules. And while it’s true that some of these strategies may appear to be working, it’s like applying a band-aid to an aneurysm. The root of the problem hasn’t been addressed: Why aren’t patients showing up and, equally important, how can you reduce the occurrence of this problem?
Improving the Percentages
We found that excessive no-show and cancellation rates can be attributed to several factors. Primarily, the practice doesn’t consistently remind patients of appointments. The responsibility for appointment compliance is placed on different positions within each practice, with varying degrees of success. Nonetheless, there are a few actions you can take to actively decrease no-shows and cancellations and recapture lost revenue.
- Utilize a standard automated software tool. With this tool, you should remind patients 48 hours in advance of scheduled appointments. The software tools should also allow patients to cancel appointments, if necessary.
- Actively fill last-minute cancellations. While last-minute cancellations happen, this downtime quickly reduces your practice’s profit. By developing strategic policies to fill those last-minute cancellations, you can recapture some of this lost revenue.
- Encourage people calling with cancellations to reschedule while they are still on the phone. We found that patients who cancel often aren’t urged to reschedule an appointment at the time of the call. Track the patients who reschedule, especially if they do it chronically, but also get the patient rescheduled right away during that initial cancellation phone call.
- Actively contact patients who do not show up for appointments. We found that patients are not always called to reschedule appointments after not showing up. Follow up to determine the reason why they didn’t show and also to get the appointment rescheduled.
- Analyze appointment data. Are there specific days or times in your practice that yield a high number of no-shows? Do no-show or cancellation rates vary by physician? Find out by analyzing the appointment data and then integrating the results when developing a strategy.
While changes in your no-show and cancellation rates may not happen overnight, implementing these five strategies will assist with improving your percentages and yield positive shifts over time. The key is to be flexible and accommodating to patients while encouraging behavior that will help you serve all patients better and help your practice thrive.
Want to learn more? For more information on how to improve your no-show rate, contact us today.