No-shows cost thousands in revenue, reduce accessibility, and lower productivity — here’s how to stop them.
Patients have a lot on their plates. Doctors do too. Fitting necessary appointment times into everyone’s schedule is one of the most important challenges facing any healthcare provider. Scheduling tools and patient management suites are a good solution to managing appointments, but what happens when a patient never shows up?
No-show appointments have a huge impact on healthcare providers’ bottom lines. Missed appointments cost the US healthcare system $150 billion annually, according to Health Management Technology. Staff forced to sit and wait for patients that won’t arrive mean other patients are pushed out of time slots they might have used, and healthcare providers lose time they could have spent getting other work done. The time-sink also frustrates staff. We can’t force patients to show up on time. There are many reasons patients miss appointments. The good news: better technology and communication can help turn these lost appointments into productive ones.
“Missed appointments cost the US healthcare system $150 billion annually.”
A Money Pit
When a patient cancels an appointment, providers know they can reschedule a new patient to fill the space and save the revenue. When patients don’t cancel and simply don’t show up (for a host of reasons), the slot can’t be rescheduled and budgets feel the result. Take the example of just one clinic seeing 50 patients every day. If each appointment costs about $200, with a no-show rate of 16%, that clinic loses $1,600 daily to missed appointments (over $35,000 every month or more than $400,000 every year).
Most clinics aren’t lucky enough to have a no-show rate as low as 16%. This article from SolutionReach lists the average no-show rates from some of the most healthcare specialties gathered from multiple studies:
- Dentistry: 15%
- Optometry: 25%
- Primary Care: 20%
- OB/GYN: 18%
- Pediatrics: 30%
- Dermatology: 30%
- Ophthalmology: 22%
Using our estimates, these clinics could be losing between $1,400 – $3,000 every day. To calculate how much revenue no-shows cost you every day, take the average number of patients you typically see in a day, multiply that by your average no-show rate, and then multiply that number by the average cost of an appointment.
Patients Have Pain Points
Nurses and physicians aren’t the only ones who know no-shows are a problem. An Accenture report found that 77% of patients think the ability to book, change, or cancel appointments is important. Only a small number of appointments are self-booked by patients, however. The industry simply doesn’t give patients a good opportunity to help solve no-shows. Most of the time the process is cumbersome — involving an unwanted phone call to providers, where a receptionist may or may not be available to answer and change appointments. The process can take more time than patients are willing to invest, and sometimes is only available during business hours (when healthcare providers are working, but patients are also busy).
There are a host of reasons patients might not show up to appointments. SCI Solutions found that many providers see a delay of around 76 days from referral to appointment time. A delay almost as long as a full financial quarter means some patients just forget about the appointments they’ve scheduled. The busy life of a new patient managing their children’s health, school, and their own employment schedule can easily wipe the memory of an appointment from the mind of the most attentive parent and contribute to the pediatric specialty’s sky-high 30% no-show rate.
Other compounding factors add to the reasons appointments become no-shows. Healthcare is expensive. When patients can’t find the money to afford copays and worry about fees that might pop up during exams, they might not want to explain why they’re canceling an appointment.
Exams and doctors visits aren’t just expensive, they can be intimidating. Dermatological specialists see a high, 30% no-show rate as well. The potential for cancer diagnoses or the idea of someone closely examining potentially embarrassing skin issues could scare anyone away from an appointment.
There are always last minute conflicts as well. Life is messy, and events are often out of our control. When patients’ lives don’t go the way they expect, priorities get in the way of routine check-ups. When things are chaotic, patients need a system that’s faster and easier than phone calls and waiting on hold to properly cancel appointments.
Self-Service Tidal Wave
Self-service technology will dramatically change the healthcare industry over the next few years. By the end of 2019, Accenture research predicts “all of the top 100 US health systems and 55 percent of the remaining health systems will offer digital self-scheduling.” Automated self-service removes the potential manual, error-prone systems create for appointment slots to be left open accidentally. Making healthcare more affordable for those who need it will take more effort to fix than just implementing self-scheduling technology, but fast and convenient canceling and rescheduling solutions can help nervous patients or those with last-minute complications let doctors know they will be missing appointments and give healthcare providers the time needed to make sure patients on waiting lists receive the care they need.
Working Together For a Solution
Notifying doctors of cancellations is still a cumbersome process for many patients. A wide variety of reasons (or a combination of multiple factors) can motivate patients to skip appointments without letting healthcare providers know. These missed appointments add up to a big hit to budgets and bottom lines. Even an industry leading no-show rate can result in thousands of dollars lost every month. Combined with the frustration no-shows can cause staff and the inability to reschedule those appointments to give other patients care, it’s easy to see why the no-show issue is a big problem in the healthcare industry.