One of the single biggest problems you may be trying to solve in your healthcare organization right now is missed healthcare appointments and no shows by patients. Many healthcare workers, healthcare centers, and health care organizations are trying to figure out how to address patient no shows. Missed appointments can't continue to go on if it's disrupting your workplace and causing stress and strain on your staff and patients mental health.

It can be a costly problem to have and one that needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Not only do you have to pay your health care staff and keep your building open, but the continuity of health care  and primary care is disrupted too.

 A missed appointment can be frustrating and costly for all parties and be detrimental to a patient's physical and mental health. Therefore, it's worth your time to think through the missed appointment dilemma and find a solution.      

Reasons Why Patients Don't Keep Appointments

You may be able to better address and solve the issue of missed healthcare appointments by diving deeper into the reasons patients don't keep their appointments. There are a few main reasons why a patient may be a no show or more likely to miss their appointment. For instance, data collected shows that patients who miss appointments tend to report forgetfulness, personal issues, scheduling conflicts, and transportation issues as the main reasons for a missed appointment in the united states.

There may also be other reasons that patients don't want to discuss or talk about, such as mental health,  and that you must try to workaround. It's important to note that the patients don't necessarily believe that the appointment isn't essential or beneficial. It's more so that they are busy people and can't remember that they have an upcoming appointment or what day or time it's scheduled for.

The information being collected reflects the importance of healthcare organizations and facilities needing to do a better job of reminding patients of future appointments and when they're scheduled to come in and see a doctor. Text-Em-All’s automated messaging service is an ideal way to deliver appointment reminders to patients quickly.

How to Handle Missed Appointments

You want to avoid placing blame or getting emotional when healthcare appointments are missed. Instead, it's best to be proactive and come up with helpful and effective ways to handle missed appointments. One option to look at is improving your communication with your patients.

First, you should be sure to collect and include the reason for the visit and why the patient missed it, if possible. Gathering this information will help your organization to see the reasons why patients are not showing up quickly. Depending on the patient's physical or mental health diagnosis or reason for the missed appointments, the treating provider may instruct that the patient be contacted and informed of the need for the appointment to be rescheduled and kept.

You also should evaluate whether the patient is at minimal risk or moderate risk. If the patient is at minimal risk then a simple phone call or letter about the consequences of missing an appointment may be necessary. In the latter case, typically two documented phone calls and a certified letter outlining the consequences of failure to receive needed treatment promptly should be adequate. All efforts to educate the patient on health needs and what was done for the follow-up should always be documented in the medical record.

You might also want to consider having a waitlist handy and calling up other patients who need to get in if there's a cancellation. This way, you're ensuring your other patients are satisfied with your service and that it's a good use of everyone's time even though a patient didn't show up.

Regardless of what you decide to do and how to handle it, you should have policies and processes in place that everyone knows about and agrees to before you begin penalizing patients or blaming people.

How to Get Patients to Keep Appointments

There are several useful and practical ways to get patients to keep their appointments that you should consider doing at your organization. You'll likely find that when you put forth an extra effort in this area and communicate better that you'll be on your way to reducing no-shows and avoiding scheduling conflicts.

Establish Strong Relationships

First, you should work on establishing strong relationships with your patients during their primary care checkups. Their loyalty to your practice will likely strengthen as you show them that you care about them and value them as a person. You want them to feel bonded to the healthcare team and motivated to want to come back in the future to improve your show rate.

Update Contact Information

It's also wise to update and confirm the patient's contact information when they make an appointment. This includes phone number, email address, etc. The reason you may not be getting through to them is that you have incorrect information in your system. It's frustrating for both parties when you're missing each other because you have the wrong contact details in your healthcare appointment system. This will also improve your show rate.

Show Patients Appreciation

It would be best if you also worked harder to show appreciation for patients who not only show up but show up on time. Communicate to them that you appreciate their loyalty and commitment to coming to the appointment and caring about their health.

Consider Penalties for Missed Appointments

Another idea is to consider pre-paid appointments or penalties if there are missed appointments. People aren’t likely to not come to their primary care appointments if money is involved, so it may be a tactic you want to think about implementing. You may want to design a cancellation policy that will charge your patients a late fee if they don’t show up as well.

Send Appointment Reminders

However, one of the best ways to get patients to keep their appointments is to send appointment reminder calls or texts. You only have yourselves to blame if you're failing your patients in this regard. Communication is essential to you getting patients to show up and remember their upcoming appointments with your clinic.

Text-Em-All appointment scheduling software couldn’t be easier to use, and reminder calls or texts could provide better patient care. Having healthcare appointment reminders is a necessity for medical practices nowadays. Make sure you’re going with a scheduling software service you can trust to decrease patient no shows and improve your show rates. 

Patient Reminder Ideas

When patients no show, it causes revenue loss and a decrease in patient satisfaction. It's in your best interest to figure out a way to communicate more clearly and effectively with your patients through healthcare appointment setting best practices.

One idea is to develop a better system for sending reminders and getting in touch with your patients. In the age of technology and digital communications, you should consider sending appointment reminder calls or text messages to your patients.

Give them a chance to opt-in and then notice how much more often they show up. Patients are likely carrying around and on their phones throughout the day anyway, so sending out a reminder to them will help them keep the appointment top of mind. It may motivate them to add it to their phone calendar or write it down on a family calendar when they get home.

You can also provide creative healthcare appointment card reminders to give them when they exit their last appointment. You might want to use a magnet they can stick on their fridge, hand them a reminder card, or see if they don't mind putting the appointment into their calendar on their phone as you're discussing it.

It's also a wise time to ask if they want to sign up to receive text message reminders from your practice. This way, you can get them all set up right away and ensure that they receive an automated reminder before their next appointment. Keep in mind that everyone functions differently and has their own systems and ways to remember things but that most everyone has and uses a phone to communicate daily.

A few reasons to use reminders for healthcare appointment scheduling include:

  • Most effective way to communicate in the healthcare industry.
  • Gives your front office staff a break.
  • Customer satisfaction will increase.
  • You'll save time, money, and resources.

Communication Best Practices

What you don't want to do is overload your patients with text messages and phone calls and annoy them. You have to respect their space and time and implement healthcare system best practices for communicating with your patients in the digital era.

If there's one rule of thumb you follow, it should be to avoid sending too many messages altogether. The patient might get annoyed and stop reading them or choose to unsubscribe. They may become stressed out and cancel the appointment or find a different provider.

Messaging your patient once or twice in the days leading up to their appointment is helpful and can reduce no-shows. You may want to follow the best practice of sending three messages in total and spacing them out.

Next, you need to work on making your messages clear and concise. You want to avoid having any wrong details and misinforming your patients or causing them to feel confused about what you're trying to convey. You want your patients to be able to read your text message in a few seconds.

For best practice, your texts should include:

  • Who is sending the text.
  • Specifics on appointment information.
  • Option and steps for canceling.

You certainly want to avoid including private patient data or health records in your automated reminders. Make sure you discuss with your team what you want your messages to include before you start sending them out.

You can increase engagement with your patients over text messaging by requesting a response from them. They can respond "yes" if they still plan on coming or "no" if they wish to cancel. It's an excellent way to make sure that you're both on the same page the days leading up to the appointment.

You can make the message more personalized as well to help build a deeper relationship with your patients and improve show rates. For instance, address them by name and list which healthcare provider they'll be seeing.

For text messaging to be successful, you also need to avoid common mistakes, such as not sending enough messages or sending a message too early or too late. Studies have shown that the best time to send a text message is in real-time, around 6 pm, usually when people get off work.

However, the biggest mistake the united states healthcare system and healthcare industry can make is not using appointment reminders or investing in appointment scheduling software. Text-Em-All’s automated messaging service is an ideal way to deliver appointment reminders to patients quickly and avoid no shows.

Conclusion

The issue of missed appointments continues to prevail in the united states healthcare system today. However, it's improving when healthcare facilities and organizations address the no show problem head-on and develop practical solutions that help reduce no-shows.

You should now know more about the reasons why patients are likely to miss appointments, how to handle it, and what action you can take to ensure your patients show up to their appointments in the future. Open and consistent communication using technology solutions, like Text-Em-All,  is an ideal way to address the no show obstacle and get your patients through the door on time, every time.