We often hear some of our clients complain about patients. They don’t have trouble getting new enquiries since they rank well in Google search. They complain about no-show patients who book an appointment but later on fail to inform the clinic that they will not show up.

Last-minute cancellations and no-show patients not only frustrate the smooth operation of a clinic but are also a loss of money and resources for any medical practice.

Your front office team may be efficient and well organised but unfortunately not all your patients recognise the value of keeping schedules. When a patient does not appear for a scheduled appointment without notifying the clinic, your practice will be affected in its operations and finances.

Your patient also fails to get the ongoing treatment, care, and follow-up he or she deserves. While there is no single solution for handling no-show patients, there are several things you can do to reduce cancellations.

Here are our top 10 ways to prevent recent cancellation and failure to show up for appointments.

1. Create Easy-To-Use Appointment Reminders

The most effective and simplest to implement solution for patient no-shows and appointment cancellations is to place reminder calls. While appointment cards actually do work well, a simple phone call is often your best option.

Studies show that patients are more likely to honour their appointments after they are gently reminded over the phone. However, it is sometimes not practically possible to contact each patient over the phone and remind them of their next appointment. These personal calls are not only difficult to keep up with but can be expensive in the long run.

So, what is the best solution? Well, thanks to advances in communication technologies, it is quite possible to set up automatic and cost-effective texts, calls, and even email reminders. Text messages, for example, have been found to be quite effective in reducing patient no-shows, reducing wasted labour and helping you to increase revenue.

There are many automated appointment reminders today that allow you to choose the best reminder method and the best reminder interval for each of your patients.

2. Always Ask Patients How They Want to Be Reminded of Their Next Appointment

Your patients have personal communication preferences too. While many may agree to telephone reminders, there are others who will pay more attention to email or text reminders.

It is therefore important to find out which communication method the patient will pay the most attention to if you want to reduce cancellations and no-shows.

3. Always Inform Patients of the Importance of Follow-Up Visits

One of the most common reasons why patients fail to show up for appointments is just sheer lack of information. Most patients don’t realise how important the follow-up visits are.

The best way to prevent a no-show or appointment cancellation is to communicate clearly with the patient about the reasons and the importance of the next follow-up visit before the appointment is scheduled.

Let the patient know what will be examined, discussed, and addressed in the next visit. Most people tend to be more confident and eager to make the next visit when they know what to expect and how important the visit is.

4. Give Your Patients Printed Copies or Cards of the Next Appointment Time

Your patients might want to keep their own records of future appointments in their phones or calendars but it doesn’t hurt to give them a printed appointment card that reminds them of the importance of the appointment.

The printed appointment card also works as a backup if the patient should somehow lose the personal records stored in their phones or notebooks. Remind the patient to keep the card in an easy-to-remember place.

5. Encourage Prepaid Appointments

You can significantly reduce patient appointment cancellations and no-shows by encouraging your patients to prepay for their next appointment.

Just like every one of us, when patients have already committed money to an appointment, they will do their best to show up on the appointed day. You can even give your patients an incentive to prepay for their appointment by offering them a discount for prepaid visits.

6. Implement a Cancellation Policy

Although many people tend to differ on the issue of cancellation policies and penalties, it is always a good idea to remind patients that they may be charged a small fee if they don’t show up on the next appointment or if they cancel the appointment at the last minute.

This should not be seen as a stiff penalty but as a nudge in the right direction and a way to instil some level of commitment. In your cancellation policy, state clearly that last-minute cancellations and failure to show up for appointments are detrimental to the patient’s health and recovery.

Give the patients a reasonable notification period during which they can cancel or reschedule the appointments without being charged a consolation fee.

7. Teach Your Patients How to Cancel Appointments Well in Advance

Show your patients how they can cancel or reschedule the appointment well in advance to avoid last-minute frustrations.

When your patients understand how to cancel appointments and the importance of doing it well in advance, they will help you to avoid no-show frustrations and inconveniences. More importantly, make it extremely easy to reschedule or cancel an appointment.

There are many types of online scheduling tools that you can use together with your electronic appointment reminders to help patients cancel or change their appointments with ease.

8. Avoid Scheduling Appointments Too Far Apart

People are bound to forget or lose focus on matters that seem too far away in the future. The same thing applies to your patients.

When the appointments are scheduled too far apart, your patients may lose interest or even forget about their appointment.

9. Minimise Waiting Room Time

In today’s fast-paced lifestyles, people just hate being kept waiting for half an hour or even an hour to see a practitioner.

The longer your waiting room time is, the more likely your patients will opt out of future appointments. Keep in mind that no-shows eventually translate to lost patients.

10. Give Patients Who Are Committed to Their Appointments a Reward

Encourage patients to honour their appointments with small but significant rewards. You could even provide a small discount on a patient’s bill if he or she shows up on time on the appointed date without fail.

You could even give them a gift card every time they arrive on time. It is a fun way of reducing last-minute cancellations and no-shows.

Final Thoughts

There are many more tips and tools that you can effectively use to reduce last-minute cancellations and patient no-shows. You could even send a patient who failed to show up a “Sorry we missed you” message and they will probably reconsider and show up on the next appointment.

While there isn’t a single solution to the problem, the tips mentioned above can help you reduce last-minute cancellations.