Don’t Let Missed Appointments Reduce Your Bottom Line

By Deli Parham, CPC

Missed appointments—no-shows and last minute cancellations—plague every practice. Some practices charge to recoup revenue for missed appointments while using the threat to motivate patients to keep appointments. Others don’t. Here are some tips:

DO’s

Charge for Missed Appointments
Implement a well-publicized policy charging a reasonable, fair fee for missed appointments. Simply hanging the threat of a charge out there may get the patients through the door. Or, if a patient misses one appointment but shows up the next time, issue a warning and waive the fee.

Charges often range from a flat fee of $10 to $25, or half the cost of the scheduled procedure. Before implementing a new policy, check with those health plans you contract with in order to make sure it is allowed.

Institute a Telephone Reminder System
The Automated Phone System vs. Personal Touch

Automated Phone System: Beware of using only the automated phone system even if your practice has few employees or many patients. Although using an automated phone system seems more attractive to cut back on expenditures, some patients—especially the Medicare population—may not check or understand messages, or they may simply ignore voice mail messages.

Personal Touch: Studies show most patients take person-to-person contact more seriously. People are more reluctant to miss an appointment, especially established patients who are familiar with the staff, if called directly. Personal calls are easier to understand, especially for the elderly.

Use of Both Automated and Personal Touch: Analyze patterns of no-show days and make the personal reminder calls for those days likely to have missed appointments. For example, make personal calls on Fridays for appointments on Mondays. Personal calls on days where there is an increase in no-shows and automated calls the remainder of the time may be most effective, depending on the size of your office.

DON’Ts

Double-Book Appointments
This could lead to more missed appointments because patients become irritated with waiting a long time to see the doctor.

Require Up-front Deposit
This risks alienating patients and increasing clerical bookkeeping time.

Only Use An Automated Telephone Reminder System
This may not decrease stubborn no-shows.

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