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How to Reduce Patient No-Show Rates Using Automation

The Challenge of No-Show Appointments

Appointment no-shows are a big challenge for medical practices. No-shows lead to lost revenue, productivity, wasted resources, and disrupted care.

There are strategies that healthcare facilities can implement to reduce no-show rates. This article provides practical methods to improve attendance and optimize clinic operations.

Periodic Appointment Reminders

The best way to reduce no-shows is by sending pre-scheduled appointment reminders. Use voice phone calls, text messages, and emails sent manually or via automated systems. Send reminders before appointments, usually 24-72 hours ahead, so the patient can reschedule if needed. Automated appointment reminders reduce no-show rates, operate 24 hours a day, and relieve your staff from manually contacting patients.

Consider Caregivers and Family Appointment Reminders

Modern engagement systems provide enrollment of authorized related persons to appointment reminder workflows. In these systems, authorized 3rd parties receive appointment reminders, calendar files, and office arrival and departure updates. Canceled or appointment no-shows generate immediate messages to authorized 3rd parties.

Simplify Appointment Scheduling

Complex and time-consuming appointment scheduling processes contribute to no-shows.  

Simplify scheduling by offering multiple channels for booking appointments. Appointment reminders such as Email and SMS provide web links to easy-to-use scheduling software. Patients can cancel or reschedule 24 hours a day without long wait times for human operators. Scheduling is accomplished by using existing time slots in the EMR designated for specific types of appointments.

For example, new patients may be scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the morning. In our example, if a new patient wants a “new patient” appointment, the software will look at the appointment type needed, scan the EMR for availability, and present an open slot on Tuesday or Thursday.

The scheduling software can be configured via specific office and visit type rules. For example, in the case of a complex scheduled surgery, the system will direct the patient to call the office for any changes. For new patients, only slots with 45+ consecutive minutes are offered.

Letting patients pick when they want to come in can make them more likely to show up and keep your schedule full. The self-service options available to the patient are configurable by the practice.

Patients feel empowered when they can reschedule their appointments. Empowered patients are more likely to refer others.

Getting Patients to Arrive on Time

All appointment reminders should include links to Google Maps, WAZE, and other trip navigation software. If there are location issues for the appointment date, consider using a patient engagement package with a broadcast feature.

Broadcast features allow you to send bulk messages to patients and caregivers based on the location, practitioner, and time of day. Sending warnings about delays gives patients a chance to plan. If the practice is running behind in its schedule, use the broadcast feature to have patients arrive later.

Improve Communication

Clear and comprehensive communication reduces no-shows. Patients must know when and where their appointment is and any special instructions they must follow. All practice location information should be provided in appointment reminders by providing a web link to an amenity and logistics webpage usable on mobile and desktop devices.

Provide Parking and Drop-Off Information

Appointment reminders should link to a website containing information needed for parking, drop-off, and pick-up locations. Include office amenities such as food options, restrooms, pharmacies, and other services useful for visitors or caregivers waiting for the patient.   

Explain parking costs and available discounts. Is parking validated? Provide information on the alternate and cheaper parking—show fees for parking: valet or self-park.

If the practice has reserved parking spaces, show their locations (graphics or pictures are helpful). 

Show the best places to park (i.e., floor(s) of the parking garage) with pictures of points of reference. To get from the car to the practice office, show all points of reference, including doors, elevators, and hallways.

Ridesharing Options

Provide pre-set web links to Uber and Lyft for each of your locations. Configure ridesharing links for each practice if you are a large healthcare center with multiple entry portals. Add pictures for drop-off and pick-up points with walking instructions from the drop-off point to the office.

Encourage patients to ask questions and address any concerns they may have. Establishing a solid patient-provider relationship through effective communication can increase engagement and commitment to attending appointments.

Implement Overbooking or Double-Booking

Implementing a controlled overbooking or double-booking system can help reduce the impact of no-shows. Healthcare providers can see more patients by scheduling more appointments than available slots, reducing wait times. Analyze patient flow carefully and avoid overbooking to manage workload and keep patients happy.

Provide Incentives

Motivate patients to attend their appointments by offering incentives. This can be through discounts on services, loyalty programs, or small rewards like gift cards or free samples. Incentives encourage patients to show up and help build loyalty and satisfaction.

Assess and Address Barriers

Identify and address potential barriers that might prevent patients from attending their appointments. Some common barriers include transportation issues, financial constraints, language barriers, and fear or anxiety. Provide prefilled links to rideshare vendors such as Lyft and Uber.

Consider providing transportation assistance, flexible payment options, and employing interpreters.

Creating a welcoming and calming environment can help alleviate these barriers and improve attendance rates.

Human Follow-up on Missed Appointments

When a patient misses an appointment, contact them to reschedule and understand the reasons for the no-show. This follow-up demonstrates that the healthcare facility values its commitment to quality care. Provide opportunities to address any concerns or issues that might have contributed to the missed appointment and prevent future no-shows.

Human follow-up on missed appointments is ideal but is cost-prohibitive at scale. Automation to remind patients to re-engage is inexpensive and operates 24 hours daily. Patients frequently reschedule minutes after being electronically informed of their inadvertent missed appointments. The missed appointment cost is minimized by automating the rescheduling process and allowing the patient to schedule their appointment.

Conclusion: Reducing No-Shows is Practical and Possible

Modern patient engagement systems and AI provide 24-hour patient control over their appointments. These efforts contribute to delivering high-quality healthcare services and improved patient outcomes.

Analog Informatics

Analog Informatics provides complete automation of no-show management using AI technology. All aspects of the no-show re-engagement workflow are editable by your practice.

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