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14 Creative Ways to Reduce Patient Cancellations

Posted by Teresa Iafolla, Apr 7, 2016

Late cancellations and no-shows frustrate your front desk staff, your accounting team, and every member of your medical staff. Plus, they're not good for your patients. A patient no-show could mean reduce treatment adherence, or even a later unnecessary trip to the ER if they're not getting the follow-up they need when they need it. Too many late arrivals or no-shows can create bottlenecks in your appointment schedule and cause other patients to have longer wait times.

So how do you reduce patient cancellations? Here are some creative tips that could help your practice.

Improve Your Practice

  • Reduce Wait Times. If patients routinely have to wait long past their scheduled appointment time, they are more likely to cancel on short notice or miss an appointment without any advance notification. Work with your front desk to reduce patient wait times.
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  • Say You're Sorry.  When patients do have to wait awhile, start with a simple apology. Patients will feel more connected and may be less likely to cancel in the future.
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  • Do a Survey About Your Practice Hours.  Survey patients about their scheduling preferences and consider adjusting your office hours to better suit their needs. If you can't stay open later, you may want to think about offering on-demand virtual visits instead.
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  • Transform Your Scheduling Process.Take a more modern approach to scheduling. Email patients a universal calendar invitation that they can easily accept and add the appointment to their electronic calendars.
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Incentives to Keep Appointments
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  • Do Appointment Reminders the Right Way.  Send out reminders just in advance of your permitted cancellation window. The reminder should include the cutoff time for a no-charge cancellation and it should be sent via the communication channel that the patient chooses: email, text, home phone or cell phone. Keep in mind that millennials infrequently retrieve their voicemail messages and your older patients may rarely use email.
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  • Make Rescheduling Easy.  Allow patients to cancel or reschedule by email and/or text message, as well as by phone.
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  • Institute a Clear Cancellation Policy.  Have each new patient read and sign a copy of your cancellation policy. It should include the cancellation and no-show charges, as well as other monetary penalties for repeatedly missing appointments.
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  • Try Telemedicine.  Offer telemedicine visits at a reduced fee for non-critical situations.
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Creative Rewards
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  • Do a Monthly Drawing.  Conduct a monthly drawing for a gift card, open only to patients who arrive on or before the originally scheduled time for an appointment.
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  • Offer a Credit.  At year-end, offer a modest discount, credit or a small gift to those who have complied with the cancellation policy all year.
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  • Allow Priority Scheduling.  Offer compliant patients access to priority scheduling if they keep all their appointments faithfully.
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Small Penalties that Work
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  • Charge a Small Cancellation Fee.   Even a small fee can help motivate patients to stick by their appointments.
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  • Ask the Patient to Pre-pay for Next Time.  If a no-show patient needs a follow-up visit, require a partial prepayment toward the next visit, which is forfeited if the patient cancels or if the patient is a no-show.
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  • Be Firm with Frequent No-show Patients.  We all have times when we can't stay on-schedule for some reason. But patients who are frequent no-shows should receive a phone call from the doctor or staff letting them know they could be discharged from the practice if the behavior continues.
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Before implementing any of these tactics, gather data on why your patients cancel, and select your strategy accordingly. Keep cancellation metrics and monitor changes in cancellation rate over time. Be sure to reward your front desk staff for taking on the extra work that some of these approaches will require.

 

What strategies have you used to reduce cancellations? Tell us in the comments!

Topics: eVisit Blog Posts, cancellations, metrics, Patient Engagement, Practice Management, revenue, staff, workflow

Teresa Iafolla

About Teresa Iafolla

Teresa Iafolla is an expert writer, researcher, and content wrangler who has previously worked as director of content marketing for a telehealth company and associate editor for a healthcare publishing company.

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