Healthcare organizations that fail to address repeat cancellations of medical appointments risk losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in missed revenue annually. Luckily, there are plenty of ways healthcare providers can stop clients from canceling medical appointments.
Here are 12 strategies to implement today to help minimize appointment cancellations.
One of the easiest ways to reduce appointment cancellations in healthcare is to send appointment reminders to patients. To streamline the process, healthcare organizations should automate this process using scheduling software or practice management software with in-built reminders.
However, the timing of the reminders is the most critical factor to consider. Emails, texts, or phone call reminders should be done at least 48 hours in advance to give you enough time to fill the slot if necessary.
If cancellations are a big problem in your medical practice, consider sending out a series of reminders — one a week before the appointment and another 24-48 hours before.
Another effective way to stop clients from canceling medical appointments is to offer more flexible scheduling options. Introducing evening or weekend appointment slots helps to accommodate a variety of patient schedules and may reduce the number of cancellations that occur due to unexpected family or work commitments that pop up throughout the week.
Implementing an online booking system allows clients to schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments easily. It offers many benefits to both patients and businesses, including reducing appointment cancellations.
If clients can see all available appointment slots, rather than just select from the few you offer them over the phone, they can make an informed decision about the best option for them and reduce the need to cancel.
Another effective way to stop clients from canceling medical appointments is to implement a clear cancellation policy and ensure it is communicated to patients at the time of booking.
Consider implementing a reasonable cancellation fee to discourage last-minute cancellations. While you might still get cancellations, you should reduce the number happening 24-48 before the scheduled slot, which gives you more time to fill the gap in your healthcare provider’s schedule.
Easier said than done, but minimizing the wait times in your clinic enhances the overall patient experience. As a result, patients are less likely to cancel because they know the quality of care they will get.
On the flip side, a history of long wait times might make patients more likely to cancel if they don’t have time to wait an hour past their scheduled appointment slot that day. It doesn’t matter if you happen to be running to plan that day; a patient with other commitments is likely to preemptively cancel anyway!
Introducing more flexible healthcare options, such as virtual consultations or in-home visits, can help reduce client cancellations, particularly if your patient base is elderly or has mobility issues.
As an added benefit, telemedicine removes the patients from your waiting room who are there for routine appointments like prescription refills, which can help to reduce wait times for other patients needing in-person care.
To simplify offering in-home and virtual healthcare appointments, look for scheduling software that can accommodate those appointments, like MarketBox.
Another way to stop patients from canceling medical appointments is to educate them on
Who knows, it might make them feel guilty enough to turn up!
In addition to implementing scheduling software to make it easier for patients to book appointments at the time that suits them, healthcare organizations should use additional software like EHRs to improve the overall efficiency of medical appointments.
Healthcare apps, patient portals, and digital medical records all help to provide real-time updates and streamline communication, which means the patient is in and out of appointments faster.
Another effective way to reduce patient cancellations is to understand why they’re canceling medical appointments in the first place. Common barriers include transportation issues, childcare concerns, or work conflicts, which can often be addressed through flexible scheduling or telemedicine (see points 2 and 6).
Follow-up calls after appointments or short patient surveys can be an effective way to gather feedback from patients and address any concerns. Taking action like this shows you value patient input and can lead to a better patient experience and fewer cancellations.
Finally, if your cancellation issue is getting out of hand, consider offering incentives to patients who consistently attend their appointments, such as discounts, loyalty programs, or other perks. If this isn’t possible in your practice, consider saving the prime appointment slots for those who reliably show up and offer repeat offenders other less desirable ones.
By combining these strategies, you can create a patient-centric focus in your healthcare clinic that encourages attendance and reduces the likelihood of appointment cancellations. In addition, don’t forget to regularly assess and adjust your methods based on effectiveness, feedback, and the changing needs of your patients.