5 ways to reduce no-shows and increase your new patient ROI

5 ways to reduce no-shows and increase your new patient ROI

You’ve done all the work of acquiring new patients, now you need to make sure they get through the door of your practice for each appointment. No-shows have detrimental impacts on healthcare organizations, and may even impact the experience of other patients. Estimates put the cost of no-show patients at around $150 billion per year! Tracking no-show rates varies by organization, so for stakeholders it can be tricky to understand why patients aren’t showing up and where it’s a problem, especially if it’s happening across multiple locations. Luckily, there are steps you can take, and tools you can implement, to decrease the number of no-shows your practice is facing and start to see better ROI from new patients. 


1. Send reminders! 

A low hanging fruit that should already be part of your processes is sending appointment reminders. As an organization, it makes sense to cover all of your bases when it comes to reminding patients of their appointments. Gone are the days when the front desk staff handed you a card with a handwritten time and date and that was your only reminder. In today’s healthcare space, organizations have the ability to send text and other messaging app reminders, email and phone reminders, and sometimes even push notifications from patient portals, making it easier than ever to gently nudge patients. 

When using automated reminders, be sure to use a recognizable phone number and send multiple reminders on different channels. You may have to ask patients to opt in to communications, depending on the method you use, but that should be a best practice anyway. It may make sense to have patients to select their preferred method of getting automated reminders so it’s helpful for them and more likely to have an impact! While appointment reminders certainly cut down on no-shows, it’s not an end all be all to reducing your no-show numbers. 


2. Ensure a great patient experience

Patients are going to be much more likely to show up to their appointments if they know they’re going to have a stress free and easy time at your practice. Key ways to do that include ensuring short waiting room times which shows respect for their time and their willingness to keep timely appointments, allowing them to fill out paperwork ahead of time, having their patient data updated and accurate, presenting a comfortable space, and ensuring friendly and welcoming staff. Another aspect of ensuring a great patient experience is having payment options available to address cost concerns. When patients don’t have to worry about racking up credit card bills or hefty interest rates just for appointments, they will be much more likely to keep scheduled appointments and invest in the services they need. 


3. Schedule appointments before patients leave and provide self-scheduling opportunities

Before your patients have a chance to step out the door after their appointment, make sure to schedule follow up appointments. This way, you don’t have to track them down afterwards, and they are more likely to work around the appointment. Additionally, if you aren’t able to schedule them right away, make it as seamless as possible for them to schedule their own appointments. Try a scheduling tool on your website, within your patient portal, or send a link over SMS. If a patient calls to cancel, try to get them to rebook right away! Make it as easy as possible for patients to schedule and reschedule appointments.


4. Measure your no-shows stats for better insights

The above measures are to help you curb no-shows, and they should be part of a robust strategy based on data. Consequently, how you collect and categorize your no-show data makes a difference in being able to address issues. When you start addressing no-shows, make sure to track them correctly. You’ll need to think about how to label no-show, canceled, and rescheduled appointments so you get accurate insights. This should be done in a practice management system or a patient management system to avoid manual entries and chances for missed tracking. Then, you should have an idea of what your no-show percentage should be at to give you a good benchmark from which to start or a goal to achieve. For example, nationally, patient no-shows for different organizations currently range between 8% to 18%, but can vary. 

There is an element of quantitative data that will need to be collected as well. For example, you should try to understand some of the characteristics that impact no shows and how that relates to your patient. Patients that exhibit the following characteristics are more likely to be no shows: 

  • 34 years of age and younger
  • No insurance or Medicaid
  • Live far from the practice, 60 miles or more
  • Older patients that are recently widowed or divorced

However, it is worth trying to address some of these issues when scheduling appointments the first time around. For example, make sure the public transportation routes run frequently in the evening when patients might finish. If they don’t, schedule that patient for an earlier time slot. It takes a bit more effort at the start to address these issues, but it can have strong implications in decreasing your no-show rate and improving new patient ROI. Plus, it shows you’re willing to work with your patients to make care convenient for them, which builds trust and loyalty. 


5. Ask your patients! 

There’s nothing like patient feedback to drive change and better practices. However, this can be difficult when trying to solicit feedback from no-shows. Train staff to mark no-shows correctly and reach out after the appointment time with scripted questions to address the root cause of the no-show. It might not be enough to schedule another appointment. Rather, the patient might need to know about payment plans or transportation options, or they might be concerned about something else altogether. You won’t know unless you ask them. You can also send automated, “Sorry we missed you,” emails or texts with the option to schedule a new time. Make sure to give patients that no-show grace as well, you never know what might have happened, and it doesn’t make them a bad patient per say.