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Patient No-Shows: A New-Age Approach to an Age-Old Problem

December 27, 2014 14:00 PM (GMT-04:00)
Healthcare News

No-shows. When patients miss appointments, it can cost healthcare organizations millions of dollars annually or private practice physicians perhaps as much as $500 or more per missed visit. Not to mention the gaps in scheduling, and the workday. While this is no modern day problem, there are new ways of tackling this issue thanks to new technologies and analytics.

Fixing the No-Show Problem Starts with Understanding It

When do your no-show appointments tend to happen? Which patients typically cancel or simply don’t show up? For what types of visits? Looking for specific trends related to your no-shows can help you better address the problem.

Start by making sure you track every no-show patient in your computer system. Don’t delete them! Instead, create a coding system to identify if the patient simply never showed (i.e. NS) or cancelled at the last minute (i.e. LMC).

Then, analyze the data to look for patterns in no-show appointments. Are there certain days of the week this typically occurs? Or a time of day? Are there demographic trends emerging? For example, in recent studies by the American Osteopathic Association, conducted across a number of specialties, revealed that the first and last weeks of the month had a higher no-show rate than the middle two weeks. They speculate this could be due to patient pay cycles and cash flow issues that may make out-of-pocket expenses and co-pays difficult to incur.

They also found annual exams and non-urgent visits are most often the types of visits that result in no-shows. And when it comes to demographics, patients under the age of 35 have higher no-show rates than other age groups. Other no-show patient characteristics is a low socioeconomic status, and/or transportation issues. Lastly, patients who have an outstanding account balance with your practice have a higher likelihood of not keeping their appointments.

Tap into Technology

With technology and social media encompassing nearly all aspects of Americans’ lives, the use of email, texting, mobile apps, or online scheduling are all effective ways to curb no-show rates. A study by the Internet Journal of Healthcare Administration found that email reminders provide a 36 percent decrease in nonattendance rates. And using texting reminders allows your practice to receive a text back from a patient confirming they are coming to their appointment whether your office is open or closed. It also cuts down on telephone volume, freeing up time for paperwork and other duties. Try texting second reminders a few hours before the appointment as well.

Ask patients to pre-register for appointments online, which can be a predictive indicator as to their intent to show up. Pre-registration often requires completing demographic and health histories online before the appointment, and is generally linked to lower no-show rates.

Show Your Patients You Value Their Time Too

Particularly in today’s value-based health care system, and consumer-driven healthcare environment, patient satisfaction is crucial. In the end, making sure you value your patient’s time as much as your own by staying on schedule and reducing patient wait times, will go a long way in their willingness to show up, and on time.

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