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Why Do Patients No-Show for Appointments?

Patient no-show is a critical issue that disturbs front office operations and affects the revenue collection of a practice.

Additionally, this issue causes the mismanagement of appointments leading to inappropriate delivery of care on time.

If you are running a practice, whether on a small or large scale, you must confront this issue to increase overall revenue by enhancing payment collection and improving the billing process.

💡 According to a study, no-shows cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $150 billion a year and individual physicians an average of $200 per unused time slot.

Patient no-shows also cause the wastage of resources and higher costs in the healthcare system.

Remember, regular no-shows will take your practice to financial disaster if not addressed properly.

To get a grip on the no-show issue within your practice, you need to take proactive steps.

But how?

We will guide you on how to handle this issue and manage your appointments to reduce the number of no-shows.

Before starting, let’s understand what are patient no shows, why they happen, and what are the major factors that prevent patients from appearing on time for their scheduled appointments?

💡 Researchers found that 67,000 patient no-shows can cost the healthcare system almost $7 million, according to a different 2020 study. Particular situations, like radiology departments, where equipment like X-ray and MRI machines is costly and underutilized, might result in severe budget limitations for medical facilities, which may have even higher healthcare costs.

What is meant by “PATIENT NO SHOWS”?

Patient no-shows occur when a patient fails to show up for a scheduled medical appointment without cancelling in advance. This can be frustrating and costly for medical practices.

For example, John scheduled a routine checkup with his family doctor next Tuesday at 10am. However, when Tuesday morning arrived, John decided to skip the appointment and go to work instead. He forgot to call the doctor’s office to cancel. So when 10am came, the doctor was left waiting for John, who never showed up. This is an example of a patient no-show.

Medical practices lose revenue from no-shows, since they can’t bill for missed appointments. It also wastes the doctor’s valuable time that could have been used to see other patients. Practices try to reduce no-shows by reminding patients in advance and charging fees for late cancellations, but it remains a stubborn problem.

Why Patient No Show Occurs?

For healthcare providers, whether they are small practices or hospitals with multiple specialties, it is essential to know the exact reasons for now showing up for appointments.

These include:

  • Patient Irresponsibility
  • Recovery from illness
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Forgetfulness
  • Language barriers
  • Transportation issues
  • Weather conditions
  • Unaffordable cost
  • Uninsured patient
🧮 How to Calculate Patient No Show?

Determining the patient no-show rate is essential to address this issue for a medical practice. You can use this formula to calculate the now-show rate for the appointments at your medical facility.

No-show rate = number of no-shows/total number of weekly appointments

For example, if you schedule the appointments of 50 patients each week and you have five no-shows, your no-show rate is 5 divided by 50, or 10 percent.
Why patient no show occurs

Now let’s have a detailed look at each reason for the patient’s no shows.

➜ Patient Irresponsibility

A patient may lack a sense of responsibility that comes with going for a checkup or treatment. This causes the patient’s absence to visit the physician with whom he scheduled an appointment.

In this scenario, the patient may not prioritize his health and ignore the clinic’s appointment without understanding its importance.

This irresponsibility and carelessness of the patient leads to no show or appointment cancellation.

➜ Feeling Well or May Not

If the patient feels well after treatment and medications, then this can be a reason for cancellation of visit to the doctor. 

But he didn’t inform the front staff of that clinic, which led to the patient not showing up.

In another scenario, the patient has severe pain and discomfort with chronic or acute illnesses. This is where the appointment cancellations or now shows happen.

➜ Anxiety and Fear

A patient may feel anxiety and fear of visiting his or her primary care doctor, who overlooks these issues on a daily basis and provides treatments.

The patients may be afraid of complex medical procedures like operations or bad news related to other patients in the hospitals.

All these fear factors lead to the patient no shows.

➜ Forgetfulness

Forgetfulness is a factor due to which a medical practice can face from the patient’s side resulting in appointment cancellations.

Just like a person may forget any of his daily tasks, a patient may overlook his scheduled visit with their doctor.

That’s the reason why a no show happens.

➜ Communication Barriers

Communication barriers can also be a reason for no shows, when a physician calls for a patient appointment. Language barriers (inability to understand the language) are the major example in this case.

Additionally, patients may be unfamiliar with communication tools like messaging, e-mails, and reminders or may not have access to these due to internet connectivity in rural areas.

These issues also cause the patient to not show up for the appointment they scheduled with their physician.

➜ Transportation Issues

Patients in rural locations might not have the same advantage, even though those with unrestricted access to public transit could find it easier to meet their scheduled appointments.

This roughly corresponds to fewer missed appointments and low no-show rates for medical practices.

➜ Weather Conditions

The weather conditions also affect the patient’s appointments.

If there is an unusual weather change, like heavy rain and thunderstorms, especially in rural and hilly areas, then a patient may face difficulties visiting his doctor.

This causes the cancellation of patient appointments resulting in an increase in the number of no shows..

➜ Unaffordable Cost

In the US healthcare system, it is a reality that patient care is costly. For some people, a healthcare appointment is lower on the list of financial requirements, and they would prefer to just not show up for their booking rather than have to explain their financial capability.

How to Reduce Patient No Shows?

The healthcare providers must take actionable steps to reduce the no-show rates for the scheduled appointments.

We recommend some actionable steps that providers can take to address this issue.

How to reduce patient no shows

1. Utilize Appointment Reminders

The medical practices must utilize tools for appointment reminders like SMS, e-mail, phone calls, etc. Additionally, they must send the reminders a day before and on the day of the appointment.

Sending reminders helps practices address the issue of forgetfulness and emphasize the importance of visiting the clinic.

2. Offer Flexible Scheduling

To reduce patient no-shows, physicians and practices should offer flexible scheduling options.

They must send the minimal visit notices to the patients. Moreover, they should also extend the time for visits and provide a weekend slot to ensure the maximum number of patient visits.

This helps patients avoid facing unscheduled visits and reduces cancellations due to feeling well or other factors.

3. Provide Transport Assistance

To assist the patients residing in remote areas with the provision of transport facilities, the providers should offer transportation or ride-sharing options.

This step will help patients avail of on-time conveyance to reach the hospital or a medical facility.

And as an output, the provider will be able to reduce the rate of no-shows, increase their visits, and maximize revenue collections.

4. Enhance Communication

The patients may not be able to understand the language. Use the native language they speak and understand, or offer multilingual support.

Additionally, practices need to consider training their staff to overcome the language barrier for the patients.

Overcoming communication barriers helps patients understand the reminders you send them for appointments and helps boost payment collection.

5. Address Anxiety and Fear

The practices must ensure a supportive and friendly environment for their patients. They should welcome their patients with happy faces. This will encourage the patients and make them cooperative with their doctor.

Additionally, the providers need to offer patient counseling to those who feel fear and anxiety and provide a detailed explanation of the medical procedures they want to conduct.

This helps to reduce the anxiety and fear in patients, resulting in the successful completion of the procedures or treatments. Moreover, the patients will become more supportive and attend their appointments on time.

6. Offer Financial Assistance Programs

Offering financial assistance programs helps providers to tackle financial issues that patients face.

They should provide detailed information and proper guidelines regarding financial aid, sliding-scale fees, and flexible payment plans.

This strategy makes providers able to address the unaffordable and high-cost issues. This results in an increase in the number of visits without any financial stress.

7. Utilize Telehealth

Telehealth services have revolutionized care delivery. This innovative approach helps providers provide patients with fast and doorstep healthcare facilities.

In terms of enhancing the appointment process, they can use telehealth services to implement swift communication sources for informing patients about their appointments.

Patients who are unable to visit the medical facility due to severe pain, weather conditions, or the unavailability of transport services can get the services at home.

Consequently, telehealth services help practices resolve their appointment issues.

8. Follow-Up on Missed Appointments

Follow-up on appointments that patients miss is essential for providers to address the actual issues that they face when visiting the clinic.

The providers should implement a system for the front desk to call or message patients who miss their appointments to reschedule promptly.

This will help them ensure that missed appointments are not overlooked and encourage patients to maintain their health schedule.

Get Rid of Regular No Shows That Hurt Your Practice’s Revenue With Best Medical Billing (BMB)

BMB helps practices optimize appointment scheduling and reduce the no-show rate to get reasonable revenue outcomes.

We have trained front staff who assist you in managing the appointment scheduling. Plus, we utilize efficient practice management software to automate this process by sending reminders, messages, and e-mails.

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