How to Reduce No-Shows and Broken Appointments

Patient in a doctor's office accompanied by a nurse in a medical office

Looking to reduce no-shows and cancelled appointments? You are not alone. Every healthcare business experiences these issues, unfortunately. These circumstances can negatively impact the business as well as the clients.

Quite often, reducing no-shows and broken appointments is a simple fix that requires consistency and improved communication between the business and the client. Check out these tips below and see what could work for you:

Send a Reminder

Often, people do not show up to their appointments because they simply forget. The best way to reduce no-shows for these types of clients is to send them a reminder. Businesses have a few options as to how they can remind their clients about their appointments:

  • Call your client
  • Send them a text message
  • Email them
  • Use an appointment reminder software

Sending reminders to reduce no-shows and broken appointments can be even more effective when it is done at the right day and time. It might be helpful to engage in the following:

  • Send the client a confirmation that they scheduled an appointment on the day of their appointment
  • Send a reminder a few days before the appointment
  • Send one last reminder the day before their appointment and asking them to confirm via email, phone, or text that they will be there

Discuss the Value of the Service

Healthcare professionals spend their entire careers focusing on improving people’s health and wellness. However, non-healthcare professionals most likely do not. Your client may be cancelling or not showing up because they do not understand how important it is to work on their wellbeing.

Always inform your clients exactly what they should expect in their next appointment and why it is important that they are there.

Reinforce No-Show Policies

A lot of people do not understand the impact they have when they do not show up for their appointments. No-shows and broken appointments not only affects the company’s money, but causes disorganization, extra work for staff, and can impact the client’s health if they are putting off certain health procedures.

Every company is different and should create policies that make sense for their organization. Some examples may include:

  • Charge a fee if the client misses the appointment or is late
  • Require a deposit at time of appointment to “hold” their appointment slot. If they show up for their appointment, their deposit is reimbursed. If they do not show up, then their deposit is not reimbursed
  • If a client does not show up for their appointment after a certain number of times, then have them pay a fee in order to reschedule again

Keep a “Waiting List” of Clients

If all else fails, it may be helpful to keep a “waiting list” of clients who are in need of an appointment, but couldn’t be scheduled due to limited availability. If a client cancels, you can simply review this wait list and contact the individuals on it in order to fill in that time slot.

Listen to Your Clients

This may be difficult to hear, but sometimes clients do not show up to their appointment because they do not feel comfortable or like the people that are working there. A client’s interaction with a receptionist, medical assistant, physician, dentist, etc. can all impact how the client views the organization as a whole.

Most of the time, clients do not share this information verbally. Sometimes, clients will review the organization or staff on websites in order to express how they feel. However, most often, clients simply do not return even if they have another appointment scheduled. It is important to hear what your clients are saying in order to make any improvements. Happy clients are returning clients! Here are some ways you can listen to your clients:

  • Review any reviews that have been posted online. This may include reviews on Google, Zocdoc, or Yelp.
  • Send out an anonymous survey to every client’s email. Ask open ended questions as well as numerical scales in order to understand your client’s opinions.
  • Keep a “feedback” box in the office with paper and a pen near it. Some clients prefer to express their concerns during the moment
  • Check in with your client before you talk with them about the reason they are there. This might look like asking them if they were able to check in smoothly and if they are feeling comfortable.

You might find certain trends when inquiring about your client’s experiences. Perhaps, there is a certain time of year that people are too busy to attend appointments (ex: holiday season) or there is a public crisis (like COVID-19) that is generating fear in patients. Whatever the reason, this information will allow your business to make necessary changes in order to best support your clients.

What steps have you taken to reduce no-shows and cancellations? Comment below!

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About the author

Kristie Cabrera

Kristie is an occupational therapist, mental health advocate, and amateur urban farmer. Her experience with taking care of others in the healthcare setting and taking care of the land are both important pieces that make up who she is. As a life-long learner and creative, she hopes to create content that is centered around wellness and healing.

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