Your no-show appointment rate will never be zero but keeping it low is essential to keeping your provider’s schedule full and protecting your practice’s revenue flow. Dynamic scheduling could be your knight in shining armor.
When patients don’t show up, you’ve lost an opportunity to get paid, your providers are wasting their time, and you’re less able to give all your patients an exceptional level of care. To combat higher-than-ideal no-show appointment rates, implement dynamic scheduling to predict your probable no-show rate and reserve a strategic number of appointments you can fill last-minute.
Predict Your No-Show Percentage
Some number of no-show appointments and late cancellations are inevitable for your practice. Patients get sick, have transportation issues, have last-minute meetings scheduled, etc. That’s why it’s impossible to get your no-show rate to zero.
However, using your historic data, you can predict an average percentage of appointments that will go unfulfilled and work to decrease the number of times your staff doesn’t see patients. If your electronic health record (EHR) system keeps information such as reason for appointment cancellations (and it should!), pull all the no-show and late cancellation appointments from the last few years. Use that number to calculate the percentage of no-shows and late cancellations, and you’ve got your predicted empty appointment percentage.
For example, say your practice had 100,000 appointment slots last year, and 2,000 of those were no-shows or late cancellations. That’s a 2% empty appointment rate. Even planning to cut that number in half, or fill 1,000 of those appointments, gives you twenty appointment slots per week you can work to fill.
Using other information, including the typical number of patients you have on a wait list, how many calls you receive checking to see if there are any earlier appointments, etc., can help you figure out a rough estimate of the number of appointments you could fill on a moment’s notice.
Build/Optimize Your Wait List
If you don’t already have a wait list that you tap into when a patient cancels last-minute If you do already have one, consider these tips to help optimize it.
Your wait list keeps a running list of patients who want an appointment before you have one available. When building your list, be sure to include the type of appointment they need and the patient’s phone number. You may also want to keep track of anyone who indicates they can be available to take an appointment last-minute (such as the day of the appointment) to fill in those extremely late cancellations.
Instruct your staff to call people on the wait list when a patient cancels or reschedules their appointment. This helps patients get in to see providers more quickly and a phone call asking if they’d like a last-minute appointment can do a lot for patient satisfaction.
A patient who may not have an appointment scheduled for several weeks may get frustrated with the delay, but if they get a call from your staff asking if they can come in the next day, they’ll feel as if you’re doing everything you can to accommodate their needs. This keeps them coming back to your practice and can get them to recommend your practice to their friends and family.
Block Off Late-Schedule Appointments
Say you’ve determined you can reliably fill twenty appointments per week at the last minute and bring your no-show rate down. Block off up to this number of appointments each week in your scheduling software, for at least the next year. Scheduling as close as possible to the date of an appointment actually decreases the chances patients will no show, so filling these slots last-minute helps bring your no-show rate down.
These appointments could be at less-desirable times to keep your regular appointments full, but they will be eagerly snatched up by patients looking to get seen ASAP. Every week, you can release the hold on those appointments for the following week, allowing patients to fill them.
TIP: If you typically have a robust wait list, it’s a good customer service practice to have your staff reach out first to those patients on the wait list to see if they’d like the blocked-off appointments before letting just anyone take them. This gives those patients on the wait list a feeling that their requests are being taken into consideration, and the personal touch of a phone call to ask if they’re available can really go a long way with patient satisfaction.
Dealing with a high number of no-show appointments is frustrating, but you must tread carefully when developing and enforcing no-show policies. For guidance, check out Healthcare Training Leader’s online training session, Patient No-Shows: Reduce Legal Risks and Lost Revenue. This 60-minute session gives you the step-by-step process to follow to decrease your patient no-show rates and increase your revenues. Register for this training today.
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