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Top 8 Ways to Ensure That Your Patients Keep Their Appointments

Perpetually tardy patients, last-minute cancellations and flat-out no-shows have adverse affects on your healthcare practice. They disrupt your schedule, minimize your efficiency and, most of all, reduce your profitability. Patient Prompt reports that with an average appointment cost of $125, a 13% no-show rate would lose a practice $32,500 every month! So between a loss of revenue and employee frustration, it’s in your best interests to minimize this burden as much as possible.

Use these eight tips to reduce cancellations and no shows in your healthcare practice:

1. Uphold your end of the bargain. While overbooking may seem like a viable option, consider that you’ll establish a reputation for making patients wait when all of your appointments DO arrive as scheduled. Patients who are forced to wait a long time before their appointment may not feel bad about being late in the future. So do your part in making sure your patients don’t have unnecessary wait time. Don’t overbook, and if you find your schedule falling severely behind, have a receptionist call patients letting them know about the delay.

2. Create a late/no-show policy. Many practices offer a three-strikes policy through which a patient can be late or miss up to three appointments before they are discharged from the practice. Or, while a penalty for a 10-minute delay is a bit excessive, it’s not unreasonable to bump a patient who is a half-hour or more late to her appointment. You also can reasonably expect your patients to give you 24 hours’ notice for cancellations. Whatever your approach, be sure to work out the details for your practice’s policy regarding late and missed appointments – including if patients will incur a fee – then brief your staff so everyone’s on the same page.

3. Publish your policy. It isn’t enough to create a policy; your patients need to know and understand it, as well. Post your policy everywhere patients can see it – at the check-in and check-out counters, on the patient portal and on the waiting room walls. You can also print it on your business cards and new patient forms. This will ingrain your policy in your patients’ minds and work to reduce infractions.

4. Establish a relationship. When you get to know your patients on a personal, amicable level, they will feel obligated to uphold their appointments. On the other hand, if they don’t feel any emotional connection to you or your practice, they won’t feel any remorse to cancel or simply not show up.

5. Be easy to find. Make sure your patients can find you easily. Register your business on Google My Business and manage your online presence across Google (including Search and Maps). This will help patients find you quickly, minimizing late-comers.

6. Create tailored appointment reminders. At the very minimum, be sure you have some form of appointment reminder procedure in place. If at all possible, tailor it to your patient’s preference. Offer the option of text or phone appointment reminders a few days before the appointment, and implement a process that has the patient confirm the appointment at that time.

7. Build in tardy time. While not the most efficient means, if you have a patient who is habitually late and you don’t want to discharge him, you can build time into his appointment. For example, tell your patient his appointment is scheduled 10 to 15 minutes prior to when you actually book the appointment. Worst-case scenario: Your patient will be on time and have to wait a few minutes.

8. Establish a fill-in procedure. As people call trying to schedule a same-day appointment, before you turn them away, ask if they want to be on a cancellation waiting list. While this doesn’t rectify the problem of your first patient canceling, it offers a way to fill the gap, should the need arise.

Practice Builders can help you keep a steady stream of patients coming through your doors. Just email us at info@practicebuilders.com or call us at 855.898.2710 for a free marketing consult today. Let us help you develop a late/no show policy that keeps patients on time and coming back!