Cancellations and No-Shows: How does it affect your practice?
The healthcare practices and services work for the patients, and depend on the patient to an extent for their smooth running. Patient satisfaction and reviews are how the word gets out about your practice, resulting in even more patients if the reviews are positive. This results in improved revenue which allows you to upgrade your service to ensure maximal benefits and comfort for your patients.
However, this is not always possible if the patients are not showing up or canceling their appointments at the last minute, or coming late, disrupting the flow of appointments and function of your service for the entire day. This severely impairs the efficiency of your practice and you should avoid them to the best of your capabilities. And when that is not possible, you should try your best to combat the issue at hand.
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What is a No-Show?
A no-show is a patient who booked an appointment and then without any prior notice decided not to come to the said appointment. Your service is unaware that they won’t come to the appointment till the time of the appointment as they have not canceled the appointment but rather decided to not show up. A cancellation, on the other hand, is when a patient cancels the appointment 24 hours, or 12 hours in extreme cases, before the appointment, leaving you with an empty slot during that time. Filling this slot is quite difficult as it is too short a notice period for someone to take up the appointment time.
According to a recent survey, approximately 42 percent of patients cancel or skip their appointment altogether. It is important to remember that despite the common blame falling on scheduling mistakes or the patient itself, the actual reason behind a no-show and cancellations are far more complex. They need to be explored in-depth, to help avoid this problem in the future and ensure the smooth running of your practice.
Do Cancellations and no-shows affect your practice?
The short answer is yes, they do. Cancellations and no-shows mean that you now have an empty slot in the middle of the day that could have been used for another patient. You lose precious time and as time is money, your service also suffers from a financial toll. Surgeons are believed to lose an approximate amount of $500 every time a patient misses their appointment. This is quite a huge number but it’s not just for the surgeons but rather also for primary care physicians like you that may suffer from an equally important or slightly less, financial loss.
How to avoid cancellations and no-shows?
Cancellations and no-shows are a huge problem in medical practices due to the financial adverse effects associated with them. As mentioned before, the issue with these is deep-rooted and far more complex than it may seem on the surface. These need to be discussed to be able to avoid cancellations and no-shows in your practice. They are responsible for the increase in cancellations rates recently, as the rate of cancellations amongst different practices ranges between 10 percent and 37 percent. This covers a significant portion of daily appointments.
Mentioned below are tips that can help you avoid cancellations and no-shows in your practice:
Understand why the patients are not showing up
The most important thing to do, if you are seeing a significant increase in cancellation rates or no-shows in your practice, is to understand why they are not showing up. One of the potential reasons could be difficulty with transportation.
In the United States alone, approximately 3.6 million people cancel or postpone their appointment due to transportation difficulties. Lack of a bus route or farther distance from the subway can result in your patients canceling the appointments at the last minute or just not showing up. At the same time, lack of a parking space could also result in a similar problem.
Even if cancellations are not happening, your patients can be constantly late for their appointments if there aren’t clear instructions on how to get to the service, or if there isn’t enough parking space nearby.
Another potential reason why your patients are not showing up could be financial reasons. Your patients, after finding out the cost of the copay or patient balances associated with your service, may be scared and cancel their appointment. It is important to maintain easy-to-follow payment plans in place so that your patients do not feel overwhelmed by their potential medical bills.
Create appointment reminders
You should have your administrative staff make calls, send out emails and texts, or leave messages to remind patients of their appointment. Sometimes, patients just forget about the appointment especially if they booked it a while ago. That is quite understandable and you should ensure that they are reminded of the appointment in the week of the appointment.
You can also use this reminder call or text or email to inform the patient about their insurance eligibility and any potential payment they may have to make on the day of the appointment.
Fill last-minute cancellations with other patients
When you book an appointment, you should ask your patients if they would like to be informed if an earlier slot was available. This way, you can create a waiting list of patients and when one patient cancels, you can contact the patients on the waiting list to ask them if they would like to take up that appointment instead. This ensures that the day runs smoothly, despite the cancellation.
Develop No-Show policies and make patients aware of them
You should have no-show policies such as charging the credit card on file a portion of the service fee as a penalty if the cancellation wasn’t done at least 24 hours before the appointment. You should ensure the policy abides with local laws and that your patients are aware of them. When your patients are informed of the penalties, it acts as an incentive to pay detailed attention to the appointment time and date, and not cancel at the last minute.
Handling no-shows, cancellations, appointment reminders seem easy, and patient instructions may seem easy but require proper setup of processes and policies in place to ensure these are handled in a professional way. And, this is where you can partner with your billing partners such as Practolytics, who can take care of setting up the practice management systems and ensure patients are well informed. Practolytics, in partnership with AdvancedMD Practice Management system provides all these functionalities at an absolutely zero cost to ensure practices maintain a balance between patient care and the administrative burden on a day to day basis.