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Another No-Show? Try Boosting Healthcare Appointment Attendance With These Tips

Woman signing in with a receptionist in a healthcare facility.

October 28, 2021

It might not seem like a big deal when patients forget to show up for their surgery consultation. No-shows happen all the time, right? Yes, and that’s the problem. Missed appointments cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $150 billion a year. These common occurrences are a no-win situation for both you and the patient. But by understanding their negative effects, you can work to counteract the downsides and fulfill the needs of your patients, staff and community.

The costs of missed appointments

They may not be visible, but the costs of no-shows are widespread. They affect everything from money to morale and can quickly change the trajectory of your business. Let's look further into the repercussions behind missed appointments.

No-shows impact your overall income

Missed appointments result in lost money for healthcare institutions. Your practice's income is of course impacted by the number of patients that pay for their visits. With no-shows, you're likely unable to recoup the total intended cost of appointments, collectively leading to thousands of dollars lost. Plus, if you operate with expensive equipment like X-Rays and MRI machines, missed appointments can prevent you from maximizing the return on your - and your stakeholders - investments and takes away from the revenue you would use to cover any associated upkeep. If resources start to become liabilities, it might eventually impact future budgeting and financial allocations.

Efficiency and morale take a hit

Your staff’s streamlined work process is interrupted when people miss their appointments. Depending on a patient’s needs, they might reserve rooms, equipment, or specialists to prepare for a visit. But if the patient never arrives, the prep time could have been better used helping other clients. Staff are forced to spend time following up with no-shows to schedule new appointments. Doing this for one patient might take a few minutes, doing it for 30 could take hours.

Appointment slots fill up quickly, and the demand to see a healthcare professional is often high. So, when someone misses their appointment, it’s a lost opportunity to give patients the care they need. This can lead to widely fluctuating workload, making it difficult for staff to adjust to new rushes or slowdowns. Healthcare professionals value consistency, but they’re met with an unpredictable environment instead. Overtime, this may impact the morale of your organization's personnel, leading to increased turnover and less engagement. And as productivity decreases, so does the amount of work they’re able to accomplish throughout the day.

Patients miss out on care

Patients bear a significant portion of no-show costs. Without a doctor to identify the state of their illness, talk through different medications, or explain potential services, their health is at a disadvantage. The longer a patient goes without care, the less professional guidance they receive. And if they’re living with a chronic condition that requires attention, missed appointments may lead to greater medical expenses down the road.

Steps to combat the effects of missed appointments

Everyone profits when you successfully reduce your number of missed appointments. By getting more people through the door, you’ll produce happier staff and healthier patients. Use these tips to turn no-shows into consistent attenders:

Build awareness with educational materials

The more you can educate people on the significance of their appointments, the more likely they are to follow through with their visits. When a patient comes in, remind them the role appointments play in keeping them healthy and the long-term financial burdens that could be avoided by adhering to frequent check-ins. Consider connecting with locals via community forums, social media groups, and social platforms specifically designed to connect with people within the same geographical area to share information and communicate. You could leverage these resources to promote wellness and the benefits of healthcare visits. Once presented with reasoning by a healthcare professional, patients may consider the potential drawbacks of missing out on an appointment before committing the act.

Alleviate obstacles that keep patients from coming

By determining why patients can’t make it to their appointments, you can help them find a solution. Transportation, childcare needs, and the lack of  flexible healthcare financing are common barriers that keep people from showing up. Consider providing bus passes to ease the financial burden of travel, or work with the patients to find a time that consistently works with their family schedule. You might even consider implementing an online scheduling system that allows patients to easily select and adjust appointment times at their convenience to help accommodate their lifestyles and maneuver around any unexpected circumstances.

Pro Tip: With a loan provider such as  Ally Lending , you could also offer patients the option to pre-qualify for financing so that they feel financially prepared for the appointment and any costs that could arise. With no credit impact, it’s a win-win.

Prevent forgetfulness with reminders

One of the most common causes of no-shows is forgetfulness. When patients get their days mixed up or double-book their schedule, healthcare appointments can fall through the cracks. Put this easy mistake in check with an automated reminder system. Ask patients their preferred method of communication (email, phone call, text, in-app nudge, etc.). By sending alerts a week or two in advance, you can reach out via their stated preference and remind them of their upcoming appointment.

Get (and stay) right on schedule

Working to increase appointment attendance can be a challenge, but it’s one that’s worth confronting. By realizing and keeping in mind just how costly no-shows really are, you’ll stay motivated to prevent them. Both your patients and staff will benefit from getting more people through your doors right on schedule.

Ally lending can help you give your patients the care they need with flexible financing when they need it.

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