If you own or operate a medical practice, no-shows are a drag. They’re an inconvenience and waste everyone’s time – not to mention money. And unfortunately, they’re not uncommon. Research shows that 42% of appointments in the US are no-shows.
If you are dealing with anything close to this number, we know you want it to change. The good news is there are easy things you can do to reduce them. The most important: following up.
Following up on your no-show patients
When a patient misses an appointment, invest a little time and resources to check on them. The idea is to reduce no-shows and enhance your patient experience. When you don’t follow up, you might miss the opportunity for future visits, referrals, and information that could actually help you improve your services.
Why is follow up important?
It opens up a communication link: If you don’t make effort to follow up, you might never find out why your patient never showed up. Some of them may never even come back at all depending on their reasons. Following up and asking them why might give you valuable information about your business. Did the patient have a negative experience with your front desk staff? Was your online scheduling system too complicated? Did they feel better in between making an appointment and the date of that appointment? If you reach out and ask why, they’ll feel important. Like what they do matters. If the patient feels like they matter, they’ll be more inclined to respect your time.
It enhances a personal touch and builds relationship: Taking the time and energy to remind your patient that you missed them and to find out why expresses your concern towards them. A patient who sees themselves as more than just a means to an end is more likely to keep coming back. Caring is one of the most important qualities we want to see in medical professionals, so when you demonstrate that, you have a great opportunity to get a long-term patient. You also might get the advantage of free word-of-mouth advertisement.
It gives your client an opportunity to reschedule: Not all no-shows have to end up as no appointments. Some patients will have genuine reasons for not coming, and by following up you can offer them another chance to come.
It can be a life saver: One of the reasons why a patient may not come for an appointment is ignorance about the kind of health risk they might be in, fear of receiving bad news, or anxiety about upcoming tests and examination. When you follow up, you get an opportunity to advise and reassure them or give vital information concerning their health.
Making a phone call
A phone call is the best way to reach someone who hasn’t showed up for their appointment. It also allows for conversation, so you can hear from their tone how they feel about not showing up. Before you make the phone call, be sure you have the patient’s information at your fingertips plus a place to jot down a few things. Here’s a rough structure for the call:
- Introduce yourself after greetings and gently state the missed appointment as the reason for the call.
- Find out why the patient never showed up for the appointment and note it down. While you may feel frustrated, don’t show that here. Make sure your tone is one of concern.
- Share the importance of keeping appointments and explain the importance of calling to cancel or reschedule: to allow others to be slotted in.
- Offer the patient an opportunity to reschedule within their convenience and remind them that they can cancel or reschedule.
- Based on the information provided, offer to give any help that the patient may need to keep the new appointment or otherwise ask if any is needed.
- End the conversation by reminding the patient that they can cancel or change their appointment if need be.
If you aren’t able to reach them on the phone, consider leaving a message. Introduce yourself, state the purpose of the call and ask them to call you back.
Sending a letter
You can also follow up with a formal letter to express concerns over no-shows and to inquire reasons for missed appointments. It will feel more official, and create a written record of the missed appointment. Be sure to put a copy in the patient’s medical file.
At the end of the day, if a patient doesn’t show up for multiple appointments, and doesn’t call to cancel or reschedule in advance, it might be time to let them know that they’re no longer welcome at your practice. Reserve your time for patients who will respect it.