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What's the Cost of Patient No-Shows?

Posted by Lea Chatham on Dec 2, 2020 12:30:00 PM

It’s one thing to get patients to schedule appointments (and we’ll talk about that another day), but it’s quite another to make sure they all show up on time and prepared for their visit. No-shows, late cancellations, and patients showing up unprepared has a big cost. No-show rates in healthcare can range anywhere from 10 to 30 percent. Some specialties face huge struggles with this problem. Here is a sample of no-show rates across a range of specialties:

  • Cardiology –18%
  • Endocrinology – 14%
  • Gastroenterology – 25%
  • OB/GYN – 18%
  • Ophthalmology – 22%
  • Orthopedics – 11.5%
  • Pediatrics – 30%
  • Primary Care – 20%

For a provider who sees 20 patients a day (and that’s low for many specialties), a 10 percent no-show rate means two missed appointments a day. Based on the average revenue per visit across all the specialties listed above, that’s around $400 a day in lost revenue for a single provider. As practices work to recover from the impact of pandemic-related closures, no one can afford to lose that. Add it up. Over the course of a year, that’s nearly $100,000 in lost revenue per provider.

There are many potential stumbling blocks. Luckily, there are also a lot of easy levers you can pull to address those issues.

Automated Appointment Reminders
The top reason for patient no-shows is that they simply forgot about the appointment. That’s why reminders are so important. But how reminders are delivered is just as critical as doing them in the first place.

We’ll just come out and say it—phone calls are out. The latest data shows interest in phone calls has dropped 14 percent just since the COVID pandemic began. Interest in digital communication, however, continues to increase with patients saying that text and email are effective communication methods across the patient journey.

Automated reminders can quickly reduce no-shows to five percent or less while also increasing the number of patient confirmations. The right cadence of automated reminders can actually increase patient confirmations by as much as 156 percent!

Integrated Pre-visit Instructions
Automated reminders are great for increasing confirmations and getting more patients to show up, but there is more to it than that. How many times have you had to reschedule an appointment because someone forgot to prepare for their visit? As the healthcare industry moves to a combination of in-person and virtual visits this has become even more critical. You don’t want someone to show up in person when they were supposed to see the provider through telehealth! And for in-person visits, it can throw the schedule off or cost an appointment that it is too late to refill if patients show up without having completed their paperwork or unprepared for tests they need.

Now, you can remind patients to bring their medications, complete paperwork, or fast before a procedure. You can also send unique information in different reminders like adding a telehealth link and instructions in a reminder 15 minutes before a virtual visit. Pre-visit instructions can also link to more detailed instructions that can include maps and wayfinding or additional details like instructions for “park and text” waiting.

No-Show Policies
The best no-show policy a practice can have is the policy to avoid them wherever possible. However, there will be times when, no matter how much effort you put in, patients simply won’t show. And they may become repeat offenders. Many practices are trying a variety of no-show policies in order to discourage no-shows and recognize patients who arrive on time to appointments. 

During times like COVID when patients are truly fearful, it may make sense to stop using no-show policies. In other times, they can be effective at targeting that small percentage who can’t be moved to show up by even the best reminder strategies.

When combined, these and other patient communication tools can help keep the no-rate at five percent or less. That's what you want as you work to rebuild post-pandemic. For more details on these and other strategies to reduce no-shows and make sure patients show up on time and prepared, download this guide, On Time and Ready to Go.

Download Now

Lea Chatham

Written by Lea Chatham

Lea Chatham is the Director of Content Marketing at Solutionreach and the editor of the SR Health blog. She develops educational resources to help healthcare organizations improve patient engagement. Her work has been published in many leading journals including Physicians Practice and Medical Economics and she has presented webinars for industry groups like MGMA.