“An appointment missed by you is an appointment missed by two.”
Captain Kim Decker shared this in an article written in 2013 and the principle applies to this day. For every missed appointment, or no-show appointments, there is a need to reschedule the patient. Plus, the doctor misses an opportunity to see another patient who could have taken the original time slot and benefitted by being seen.
Why do Patients Miss Appointments?
There have been multiple studies published on why patients miss appointments. The results are similar. Here are the top four reasons patients miss appointments:
- Cost of Care
- Lack of Convenience/Transportation
- Appointment Availability
- Lack of Timely Reminder/Forgot
Impact of No-Shows on the Patient’s Health
The primary “cost” of no-shows is the impact on the patient’s health. In 2019, Athenahealth published a study of more than 1 million patients over 2.5 years where they looked at the likelihood of an individual returning to a practice after a no-show appointment. Out of all patients studied, those who never have a no-show have an attrition rate of just less than 19%. They found that a single no-show increases attrition by almost 70%. Further, patients with one or more no-shows are less likely to return to the practice within the following 18 months.
There are many risks associated with this type of patient attrition:
- Continuity of care is interrupted
- Preventative services and screenings aren’t delivered in a timely manner
- Acute illnesses may become chronic conditions
- Medication efficacy is less likely to be monitored properly
Impact of Patient No-Show Appointments on Healthcare Entities and Doctors
In addition to the negative impact to the patient’s health, there are monetary costs associated with no-shows. A study highlighted in Health Management Technology found that missed appointments in the U.S. costs the industry an astounding $150 billion dollars. On average, each physician loses $200 per unused time slot.
- Lost revenue from empty timeslots
- Staffing imbalances/unnecessary staffing expenses
- Reduced patient satisfaction if quality of care is perceived as compromised
- Lost revenue from patient attrition
The financial impact compounds as institutions increase staffing to manage no-show and patient recall activities. There are also costs associated with managing patient health decline sustained during these self-imposed care gaps.
Using Reminders and Scheduling to Reduce No-Shows
Care providers are using automated systems to manage and remind patients of appointments in order to reduce patient no-shows. Here are some best practices for deploying an efficient and effective reminder campaign.
Use “preferred” technologies: Meet your patients where their attention is directed. Telephone reminders are well-received. Healthcare institutions are also discovering that SMS is a powerful tool for gaining and retaining patient attention. With more than 292 million text messaging users in the U.S., SMS is an effective tool for connecting with patients. This is especially true for young adults who are beginning to self-manage their care journey.
Deliver timely reminders: Many Americans are zooming from one activity to the next. Patients benefit from a reminder 2-3 days prior to their appointment and again on the day of the appointment.
Make rescheduling convenient: Include SMS-based rescheduling options with your initial reminder. Patients are more likely to respond to self-initiated, closed-loop rescheduling via SMS. One-click rescheduling via a link sent by the healthcare provider has also proven effective.
EHR embedded/integrated, automated messaging: Healthcare institutions can leverage automated workflows that are tethered to the EHR. This means less staff time is spent on direct scheduling and managing information flow.
With the high cost associated with no-shows, it pays to use education, resource assistance, and communication to bridge the gaps. When considering the impact of last-minute no-shows, reminders play an important role. To learn more about automated communication that sync to your EHR, contact us today.