No-shows and same-day cancellations can take a toll on your practice’s monthly revenue. Patients with busy or complicated schedules may find it difficult to commit to an appointment months in advance. Here are six ideas to help you keep your calendar full and your patients on track.
1. Implement a wait list. By providing an optional waiting list, you can turn one patient’s same-day cancellation into another’s earlier appointment opportunity. When your patient schedules their next visit, ask whether they want to be notified if you get an earlier opening. This can give both your office and your patients added flexibility, as well as showing your patients that you care about their convenience.
2. Add a cancellation fee. While most practices find these fees rarely need to be enforced, the option to apply a fee can impress on patients that your time is valuable and can act as a deterrent for missed appointments. Offer to waive one same-day cancellation or no-show — be it an emergency, mistake, or otherwise — but retain the option to apply the fee for repeat offenders.
3. Consider offering extended hours. Many patients have difficulty keeping an appointment during their workday. Time off from work, even for health care, can be limited. If your office has the capability, try adjusting open hours by an hour or two before or after standard business hours for flex appointments. Even offering this once or twice a week can help mitigate patients’ scheduling challenges.
4. Call, text, and/or email day-before notifications. In some cases, appointments are scheduled weeks or months in advance. During that time, work schedules can change, activities may be planned, and the appointment can be forgotten. By contacting your patients the day before their scheduled visit, you provide both a reminder and an opportunity to reschedule, if needed. Even knowing a day ahead can help you fill a time slot that could otherwise sit unused. Ask your patients how they like to be contacted for best results.
5. Provide context during scheduling. If your patient doesn’t fully understand and accept the necessity of their treatment, they may fail to prioritize it. When you schedule the appointment, restate the reason for the visit and why it is needed. Focus on the benefit of treating on schedule, so they are more likely to think of their appointment as important.
6. When no-shows or last-minute cancellations do occur, be sympathetic. As we all know, life happens. If your patient does miss their appointment with little or no advanced notice, be courteous and understanding of their situation. This helps instill positive feelings toward your team, which can help them keep future visits a priority.
No-shows and same-day cancellations can negatively affect your office, but they don’t have to be devastating. By implementing these or other ideas, you can minimize the impact on productivity while helping build loyalty and value with your patients.