Strategies to Handle No-shows

Receptionist at Desk What do you find the most frustrating part of patients who are no-shows? Is it the lost revenue? The waste of your and your staff’s time? Is it the worry about potential medical malpractice liability? Physicians Practice recently had a good article on the topic of patient no-shows.

While no-show volume varies practice to practice, the average number of no-shows is about 5-10% of appointments and can be higher among patients with higher self-pays and those on Medicaid.

Finding that the usual methods of having a 48-hour cancellation policy and having patients pay small fees (compared to the cost of the appointment) for missed appointments, or appointments not cancelled within 48 hours, ineffective, one practice adopted this more stringent policy which you can customize for your practice.

Other practices are investing time upfront to get billing information and better contact information from patients prior to their first appointment. They then text patients in advance, asking them to confirm their appointments. This seems to be reducing no-shows because patients feel like the practice has already invested time in them and texting seems to be a convenient mode of communication for patients.

Despite these efforts, and patients still miss their appointments, what about the liability issue? If practices don’t follow-up with such patients, they open themselves up to medical liability in terms of negligence, and delay or failure to diagnose. The article suggests that the practice staff follow-up with the patient, find out a reason for the missed appointment and document it, and also try to schedule a new appointment with the patient and document the results of this effort as well. The article suggests doing this not just from a place of documentation, but also from a place of caring for the patient –expressing how “We missed you” and “Are you alright?” can go a long way towards building the doctor-patient relationship.

Every practice will have no-shows, but employing new strategies to minimize them can be worth the effort. And, following up with no-shows can establish a new patient or enhance a current relationship and prevent a medical malpractice lawsuit down the road.

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