Finding the “who” of missed appointments has been made easier by electronic patient scheduling software, which usually have ways of flagging no shows. Most practices call the patient immediately. This is to see if they are lost, delayed in traffic, or have missed the appointment for some other reason. If they can’t get in touch right away, practices try again within 24 hours. This is often the time when a new appointment is made.
Prevention can lower the incidence of missed appointments. Phone calls made a day or two before the appointment lower the rate of no shows. Emailing and text messaging are useful, adding the advantage of a link patients may use to cancel and/or reschedule. Other tips that have proven to be useful include the following:
- Stay on time. If you expect the patient to respect your time, respect the patient’s time.
- Keep a waiting list. This lets you fill in the gaps by calling people who are prescreened for availability.
- Know your patient. Some people are chronically late, and if the pattern can be established, flag them in the scheduling software. When their appointment is at 10:30, tell them it is at 10:00 so they’ll be on time.
Double booking is another way to lessen the impact of no shows. Some practices note certain days or times patients are more likely to miss, and add a second slot in that timeframe to recoup the lost revenue. “We allow for missed appointments in our scheduling and have four additional spots a day,” said Williams. “If everybody shows up, the doctor is a little busier. If they don’t, there is still a normal schedule.”