There are all sorts of legitimate reasons a patient may have to cancel an appointment at the last minute - a childcare issue, a vehicle break-down or an unexpected meeting or work project. Life happens, and we like practices being forgiving and not imposing a penalty for a single missed appointment. There are also plenty of preventable reasons that no-shows occur, often involving a patient just not remembering or perhaps not being able to pay.
This isn’t a trivial matter. You know from previous experience that you’re left cleaning up the domino effect in lost revenue and time from Mr. Williams’s third no-show in a month. No-show appointments cost the healthcare industry up to $150 billion dollars a year in lost revenue. Your practice doesn’t have to be included in that figure, so let’s unpack some of the ways you can increase patient activation and reduce no-shows in 2019.
1. INVEST IN TECHNOLOGY:
Patients book a cruise or a flight online. They order a pizza online and even a week’s worth of groceries. There are enough easy, off-the-shelf tools to create seamless patient booking systems, or you can invest in an MSP to handle the online aspects for you. For some reason, the medical profession has lagged behind in the technology of booking. Consider this from healthmgttech.com:
“Landlines in homes may have become a relic of the past, but it is still the primary method of communication inside the walls of hospitals and physician practices. In fact, an astounding 88% of appointments are still scheduled this way.”
Customers expect an Amazon-style internet experience everywhere, your practice included.
2. AFTER YOU INVEST, USE IT:
Platforms like PatientBond can make patient engagement more accessible than ever, providing seamless, easily integrated tools to remind patients of upcoming appointments via text, email or phone. These tailored, scaled services have proven highly effective, with thousands of dollars in savings for some practices and a plunging rate of no-shows.
Platforms like PatientBond can also engage patients in other ways, with daily medication reminders, wellness tips and appointment alerts. Stay engaged with your patient on their terms and time using psychographic segmentation to generate the most effective communication possible. Psychographics drill beneath the surface to consumers’ values, attitudes, personalities and lifestyles and understanding their unique motivations. For example, one psychographic segment, Direction Takers, look to healthcare professionals for guidance. So, it makes sense that they are statistically more likely than any of the other psychographic segments to want a live phone call for appointment reminders.
By being compatible with your patient's lifestyle, it makes them more invested and less likely to simply cancel or not show up for an appointment.
3. BE FLEXIBLE WITH PAYMENTS:
If a patient calls to cancel their appointment the morning of, and they mention finances as a reason, offer to hold a patient’s check or credit card number to run at a later date. Or accept a partial payment, and bill the rest later. Any of that would be better than having an hour of prime business time suddenly sitting empty. Not to mention the ripple effect of a patient putting off a condition that should be treated, so health outcomes along with unnecessary appointments become an issue as well. Yes, your practice needs revenue, but lost time is also lost money, so a little of something is better than nothing. But if you want to make sure that the bill is taken care of, automate collections at your practice.
4. CHILD PLAY AREA:
Depending on your volume and type of practice, this option may work to reduce appointments missed when childcare falls through. We don’t advocate bringing perfectly healthy children into a PCP’s office filled with coughing and wheezing flu patients. But, if you are a podiatrist or a dermatologist with parent-aged clients, and you find that a sudden childcare crunch is a common reason for canceling, you can mitigate it by offering on-site care. This can be a small playroom or section of the waiting room with a few toys, puzzles, books and a TV with a trained staffer to interact.
5. VALUE YOUR PATIENTS’ TIME:
There is nothing more frustrating for a patient than to sit in a waiting room for 20 minutes and then spend another half hour in the exam room before anyone arrives. Most patients understand that emergencies come up; however, something as simple as having a staffer pop their head in and say “Mrs. Jones, we’re so sorry to keep you waiting, but Dr. Trent is running behind because of a medical emergency. He’s getting caught up and will see you in 20 minutes. May I bring you some water while you wait?” shows you value your patient’s time. Or, send a text message with an estimated wait time: “Doctor will see you in approximately 12 minutes, you are second in the queue.” Investing in your patient’s time will make them invested in yours.
6. VALUE YOUR PATIENTS’ INPUT:
Lastly, customer surveys are excellent ways to gauge the reasons for no-shows and allow you to come up with a plan for reducing them. If cancellations are a problem at your practice, have the patient fill out a quick survey with a few questions that drill down on some of the reasons. Once you get a good idea for the primary reasons behind your patients’ sudden cancellations, put some of the above methods in place. With old-fashioned research and today’s technology, no-shows are likely never to be eliminated, but they can certainly be reduced.
Want to learn more about how you can reduce missed appointments by 22 percent? Download the PatientBond case study today.