Most physicians and practice managers know that missed appointments are bad for business. How bad? Some experts say that these no-shows and late cancellations cost the American healthcare system more than $150 billion per year, and individual practices between $100 and over $1,000 per appointment, depending on specialty and location.
And these figures reflect just lost revenue, not the additional costs associated with lost staff time and sicker patients. Also hidden behind the numbers is the level of frustration experienced by patients who must wait longer to get an appointment because doctor schedules appear full, even though each day brings a few more unfilled seats.
Yes, last-minute appointment cancellations and no-shows drain your bottom line, but their implications lie elsewhere in your practice, too.
Patients don’t get the care they need
We’ve written before about the myriad of reasons why your patients may not be showing up for their doctor visits — money, nerves, or a lack of convenience or appointment availability all can play a role. And these missed appointments have very real, negative implications for their health.
The scope of the problem is enormous: Some 49 million adults skipped recommended care in 2012 because of cost alone.
Some studies have indicated no-show rates in community practices ranging from 5 percent to 55 percent. These missed sessions disrupt continuity and compromise quality of care for the patients who miss the appointments and for those who “would have been scheduled in those appointment slots,” according to Family Medicine.
Patient satisfaction takes a hit
It’s not just the cancellation or no-show who is negatively affected by a missed appointment — the health of other patients, not to mention their opinion of the practice, suffers too. That’s because every missed appointment could have been filled by another (potentially ill) person, increasing the length of time that patients have to wait to see the doctor.
Captain Kim Decker, chief of the Martin Army Community Hospital Healthcare Management Division at Fort Benning, Georgia, puts it succinctly: “An appointment missed by you is an appointment missed by two.” In other words, the person who misses an appointment is likely to need to re-book, and “whoever didn’t get an appointment initially is also still needing one.”
Frustration is more than understandable. The average cumulative wait time to see a family physician in 15 U.S. markets in 2014 was just shy of three weeks. One Consumer Reports survey of 1,000 Americans showed that “difficulty in getting an appointment when sick” ranked among the top five biggest complaints that patients have about their doctors.
Further, the problem may actually compound itself: some studies indicate that no-show rates increased and the “likelihood an appointment would be kept decreased” the further in advance an appointment was scheduled. In other words, missed appointments cause longer wait times, and vice versa.
Your staff loses valuable time
When patients do call to let a practice know that they won’t be able to make their appointment, the great scramble to fill the now-vacant appointment begins. If there is no good system in place to keep track of people on the waiting list hoping for an earlier appointment, the result could be duplicative phone calls, double-booking, or worse, patients could fall through the cracks.
Spending valuable time on a wild goose chase for patients is not cost-effective and takes front desk staff away from their other duties, including greeting and checking in patients as well as communicating with doctors and nurses about the status of the waiting room and more.
Interested in learning more about how to better manage your schedule and reduce missed appointments? Contact Everseat to discuss solutions available to you.