Perhaps one of the most frustrating situations in clinical practice is the dreaded no-show.
If they’re not dealt with, high no-show rates impact treatment outcomes, clinic efficiency, and the revenue you need to keep caring for your patients.
Here are a few of our top tips on how to reduce no-shows and keep your practice running smoothly.
Communicate your cancellation policy
Practitioners are often resistant to charging for missed appointments or late cancellations because they fear the impact it will have on the client relationship. Having conversations about money can feel uncomfortable or contradictory to the work when you’re providing care.
We like to think of a cancellation policy as a way to ensure your time is being respected and your patients are being treated fairly.
Some things to consider when creating a cancellation policy are what amount is reasonable for your clients to pay, whether or not you will make exceptions for illness, and how you might offer alternative options (for example, telehealth appointments).
Luckily, members of our Jane Community Forum (health and wellness practitioners just like you!) have shared a variety of tried-and-true policies that have been effective in managing no-shows when they do happen. Browse their tips below to see what might be a good fit for you.
It’s important to communicate your cancellation policy to your patients verbally, in print, on your website, and on their intake form. That way, they’re acknowledging and consenting to the policy before they start treatment.
Adopt a payment protocol for online booking
Including a form of payment for bookings made online is another way of ensuring your patients are committed to their time with you.
What does that look like? You could request a credit card to complete the booking, ask for a partial deposit, or require your patient to pre-pay for their treatment.
Having a deposit or a credit card on file is an efficient way to act on your cancellation policy when no-shows do happen. That way, you’re not spending precious time out of your day trying to collect payment from missed appointments. (Learn more about how Jane’s features can help you reduce no-shows and collect fees when they do happen by visiting our payments page).
Depending on your clinic, this protocol could be applied to all appointments booked online, or only first-time appointments booked online.
Remember, appointment reminders work
Allowing patients to schedule appointments far in advance is useful, but research suggests it can also increase the likelihood of no-shows. The further out an appointment is booked, the greater the chance of the patient missing it.
Thankfully, appointment reminders are a proven and effective way to prevent no-shows from happening. You can automate them to reduce the administrative burden on your front desk staff, while customizing the language so you don’t lose that human touch in your communications.
Pro tip: Send one reminder before your cancellation window closes, and another on the day of the appointment. Your patient will appreciate having a chance to cancel or reschedule without penalty.
Turn cancellations into opportunities with automated waitlist management
Despite your best efforts, life is unpredictable, and patients won’t always be able to make it to their appointment. However, that doesn’t mean you should have a gap in your schedule.
Having a waitlist reduces the chance patients will seek care elsewhere if their preferred time isn’t immediately available. It also increases the likelihood of filling an empty time slot on short notice.
By automating your waitlist, you’re making sure clients are instantly notified when an appointment opens up – and making it easy for them to scoop up the first available time that works for them.
Use Telehealth to your advantage
Sometimes patients can’t make it to their appointment because of factors outside of their control. A few of the most common reasons for no-shows or late cancellations include bad weather, lack of transportation, childcare obligations, or illness.
Offering a virtual alternative to an in-person visit is a way to ensure your patients still get the care they need despite barriers to clinic access. It also ensures that you aren’t taking a hit in revenue.
Don’t underestimate the power of a follow-up message
It’s important to stay in touch with your patients, even when they fail to show up to an appointment. Recognize that patients may feel guilty or embarrassed to contact you first.
Sending a kind and empathetic follow-up removes the stress of making the first move, shows them that their care is a priority for you, and ultimately, helps them feel comfortable in rescheduling their appointment and returning to your clinic.
Have a no-show strategy
Be aware of patterns showing up in your practice. For example, what is your baseline ‘no-show’ rate? How does it impact your clinic’s efficiency and bottom line?
You can quickly and easily calculate your no-show rate by dividing the number of no-shows and late cancellations by your total weekly appointments.
Understanding the average for your clinic will help you notice if there’s a spike or change so you can plan accordingly and take action.
Using an Electronic Health Record will allow you to access no-show history and even help predict future no-shows based on patterns.
A little conversation goes a long way
If you’re seeing frequent no-shows or late cancellations from the same patient, take note. They might need additional reminders or an alternative approach to their care.
Take time to understand what’s happening for them – do they not consider their care crucial? Did they stop coming once they started feeling better? Was their insurance a factor? Understanding the why will help you come to a compassionate solution that works for both of you.
Patients not feeling connected to their caregiver or clinic staff can also be a reason for no-shows. Act proactively by making sure you’re building meaningful relationships with your clients, creating a positive environment in your practice, and engaging them in their care with helpful reminders and follow-ups, engaging marketing materials, and exceptional service.