How to Create a Patient No-show Policy

Being in the health industry is a stressful, fast-paced, and tiring job. When you add No-shows to that, it just becomes downright unbearable.

What is a No-show?

When someone books an appointment and registers a time slot of your precious diagnostic time, it does not show up.

If you only see patients according to the appointments, then that means their whole time slot goes empty.

It also breaks your rhythm of handling and diagnosing patients.

Studies have shown that it does not depend upon the time of the day or the day of the year.

Why does it happen?

People can be a No-show because,

  • Financial problem,
  • Transportation or traffic problem,
  • Unexpected problem,
  • Absent-mindedness,
  • Laziness.

How to tackle No-shows?

  1. Firstly, you must go through your clientele and filter out the No-show percentage. For most clinics, no-show percentage can vary between 7 to 20%.
    • During studies, it has been found out that almost 60% no-shows happen with 10% recurring families.
    • A person who has a history of a no-show is more likely to be a no-show in the future.
  2. Secondly culminating the data and finding out the no-show patients. You can do two things.
    • Implementing a No-show Policy, and
    • Being pro-active and reaching out to such clients (in advance and just after no-show).

(1) Let us first talk about implementing a No-show policy.

See, there is no fixed policy for it; it is kind of a hit and try and figuring out what suits you and your patients the best.

Here are few such policies, for you to consider,

Imposing No-show fees:

You can mention in your website, clinic, and prescription pad that you charge a certain amount from people who miss out on their appointment.

This will discourage people from missing out.

This fee can be deducted once; the patient comes back.

Conditional removal of No-show fees:

This no-show fee can be waivered or reduced if the patient books the next appointment and comes on time.

Depending upon whether the patient was regretful of missing the appointment and whether they called sooner after missing the appointment, the waiver and fee reduction can be charted out.

This, too, needs to clear out beforehand on the website, clinic, and prescription pad.

Offering a Conditional Reward:

Since you are punishing the people who miss out, then it is advisable to reward people who come on or before time.

For people who do not miss two-three appointments in a row and arrive on time, you can offer a discount or give them a gift card.

Again, this is to be mentioned beforehand.

Detaining the No-shows:

Few doctors have started putting their no-shows into a detention program. For example, a patient who does not value others' time; will now have to undergo a patient education and time management/efficiency session.

This can be for 30-45 minutes.

This helps in knowing your no-show patients and making a rapport, which will come handy the next time.

Avoiding extended appointments:

As mentioned before, the no-shows happen when the appointment are two far stretched out.

So, avoiding giving appointments for more than two days in the future, especially to those who have been a no-show, earlier.

This makes sure that people do not forget their appointments.

Automatic Reminders:

Nowadays, people are automatically reminded via certain software like Calendar, Relatient, Practo, etc., that they have an upcoming appointment at a certain clinic. 

This makes sure that at least the no-shows do not happen just because of being forgetful.

Double Booking:

Although it is an extreme step, you can even go for double booking a time slot for a habitual no-show.

So, that you do not lose your money and rhythm over anyone else's fault.

(2) Now, let us talk about Being pro-active and reaching out.

Pro-activeness has always rewarded people, and it will reward you in decreasing the number of no-shows.

Here are a few things that you can consider doing,

Reminder Calls:

If patients are reminded beforehand, possibly a day before or a few hours before the appointment, they are less likely to default.

This will also help in knowing if a certain patient might not be able to make it, which can then help in double booking that time slot.

Waiting List:

Keeping a backup waiting list with details of work and home addresses and the availability of your patients can always come handy.

This list will help you fill in a no-show time slot.

Pro-actively reaching out to No-shows:

It is better not to wait for the no-shows to come to you themselves and ask for a rescheduled booking.

You can reach out to them after 10-15 minutes of their appointment time has passed, inquiring in a friendly tone, "If they are stuck in traffic, or on their way, or just stuck somewhere and might not be able to make it to the appointment."

This kind of pro-active calling builds a friendly rapport with the patient, and they tend to come back, that too on time.

Do not mention a No-show fee on this call. Let them come to you first, and you can decide according to the No-show policies you have in place.

Pro-active scheduling:

If you know that a certain patient is going to be late then, after arranging a reminder call for them.

You can either put a Late fee or a No-show fee on them or straight ahead say no to seeing them if they come too late.

You can also schedule them for like 30 minutes late than their appointed time slot so that they will still be on time when they arrive late.

This way, by using your presence of mind, proactive approach, and herding out no-show patients, you can bring their number down.

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