September 14, 2021 | 10-minute read

Are you addressing the real cost of patient no-shows?

Patient no-shows are common, costly, and disruptive. How can you make sure that patients are keeping their appointments, and you’re keeping your revenue cycle steady, too?

Patient no-shows are one of healthcare’s most persistent problems. For practices that run on tight financial margins and meticulously coordinated schedules, even a single no-show can create a ripple effect that destabilizes the revenue cycle. A digital health platform that reduces no-shows can mean the difference between surviving and thriving.

Unfortunately, most practices don’t just deal with one or two occasional missed appointments.One recent study estimates that an average of one-third of scheduled patients skip out on their visits. And we know that healthcare businesses lose approximately $150,000 in revenue per provider, per year, due to patient no-shows and cancellations.

While some patients have honest reasons for missing their time slots, there are options to help minimize those chronic last-second cancellations and no-shows.

Your team can better manage schedules by, first, assessing the extensive downstream impacts of patient no-shows then implementing targeted technology-driven strategies to keep patients, providers, and revenue cycles on track.

How patient no-shows affect healthcare providers

No-shows have wide-ranging clinical, financial, and operational impacts that can threaten sustainability, including:

  • Immediate lost revenue from the missing patient: Practices that don’t have a chance to fill an open appointment slot will lose out on any potential revenue generated during that time. Unless you manage to find another patient to take the opening immediately, you risk being unable to make up the financial shortfall.
  • Lost opportunity to provide clinical care for that patient: Timely care is the key to positive clinical outcomes. Patients who delay or avoid care often see an exacerbation of their conditions, which may lead to a more intensive and expensive care encounter.
  • Increased risk of patient attrition: Even one missed appointment increases the odds of losing that patient for good, according to a recent study from athenahealth. Researchers found even one no-show raises attrition rates by almost 70 percent, with the risk getting worse for older patients and those with chronic conditions.
  • Unnecessarily long wait times for other patients: There’s a reason behind the adage: “an appointment missed by you is an appointment missed by two.” Patients who fail to show up are preventing another person from being seen sooner, creating avoidable delays in care.
  • Cognitive burdens and lost productivity for providers: For clinicians who review patient charts at the beginning of the day, a patient no-show means they could have spent that prep time on other tasks. A no-show also forces a provider to interrupt their anticipated workflow and mentally recalibrate for the next patient, which can lead to frustration and confusion.

How to reduce no-shows and improve patient engagement

When patients continually call up to cancel – or worse, when they completely ghost your team’s outreach efforts – it’s easy to feel as if they don’t respect your team or your clinicians. It might seem as if they don’t understand the importance of getting care.

The reality is often more complicated. Patients may be subject to socioeconomic stresses, such as transportation problems or an inability to take time off work, that prevent them from getting to the care site. They might not be able to pay for their care at that moment. They might think they are feeling well enough and don’t need to be seen. Or maybe they are simply anxious about seeing a clinician and forgo the appointment.

A digital health platform with the following capabilities can foster meaningful engagement and equip patients with the tools they need to keep their appointments and stay on track with their health:

  • Online self-scheduling: Giving patients the ability to take control of the scheduling process may help them to choose appointments that they can keep. Self-scheduling tools that are integrated into your EHR make it simple to check the patient’s adherence with care plans.
  • Pre-appointment reminders: Practices that leverage automated reminders have fewer unfilled appointments, higher revenue, and better use of staff time, according to a 2019 MGMA poll. More than two-thirds of respondents said that text message reminders reduce no-shows while also increasing staff productivity.
  • Digital check-in: Enabling patients to check-in from anywhere with their smartphones or tablets can improve experiences and shorten the time patients have to spend in the office. Streamlined appointments with less administrative stress may make it easier for patients to fit healthcare into their hectic schedules.
  • Secure messaging and telehealth tools: Sometimes, high-quality care doesn’t need to happen in person. With secure messaging and video chat, patients and providers can have meaningful interactions without a trip to the office. A HIPAA-compliant virtual health platform can integrate telehealth with scheduling and the EHR to keep the schedule flowing smoothly.
  • Remote patient monitoring: Instead of relying on routinely scheduled checkups that patients often forget and don’t always value, remote patient monitoring (RPM) can provide a better option. With RPM, patients are constantly monitored for health changes that might trigger the need for an appointment. When patients feel that an appointment is based on personalized, real-time data — instead of just the calendar — they may be more likely to attend.

All of these virtual health tools can combine to create more predictability and stability for your practice. Not only will you get your business back into its revenue cycle rhythm, but you will improve staff productivity and increase opportunities to provide timely, high-quality care for patients at risk of nonadherence to care plans.

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