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3 Strategies to Ensure Patients Keep Their Appointments

In a Busy World, Administrative Tasks Can Become Overwhelming

You’re busy. Your staff is busy. And your patients are busy. 

Getting patients to schedule, confirm, and keep preventative or routine office visits is quite a task. Patients rarely prioritize non-urgent medical appointments. From work and family commitments to social engagements and soccer practice, many calendar items can outrank a routine office visit.

But when patients miss appointments, your practice suffers. 

And when patients miss appointments, they suffer too because they don’t receive the care they need.

So how can you right the ship and make sure patients show up for routine appointments?

How to Ensure Patients Show-Up

Strategy #1: Implement a Cancellation Recovery Process

Although cancellations can be extremely damaging to a medical practice, many offices make it quite convenient for patients to cancel.

When a patient calls in needing to reschedule at the last minute, how does your practice handle this?

If you’re like many offices, your receptionist might quickly find another date, maybe even in the same week. While that is excellent customer service, this high level of convenience might not be the optimal solution for your practice. 

The solution? 

  • Try to reschedule with them as soon as they cancel, rather than waiting to contact them at a later time to reschedule.
  • Never squeeze them in between other appointments. This could result in a bad patient experience during the appointment that might lose that patient for good. The better option is to wait until there is time to provide the right level of attention for them, even if it takes a few weeks.

Not all cancellations can be saved, but it’s important to find out why someone is canceling. The more you can learn about the cancellation reason, the better equipped you will be to prevent similar cancellations in the future. 

Strategy #2: Nurture Relationships with Your Patients

How would your patients describe their relationship with your office?

How about the wait time, your staff’s responsiveness, online access, or transparency about billing?

Consider this:

  • 58% of Gen Z and Millennials say that responsiveness to their follow up questions is a major driver of being satisfied with their medical provider. (Accenture)
  • 59% of Gen Y patients say better online access is critically important to them. (Intuit Health)
  • 80% of patients want their doctor’s office to help decipher what portion of the bill insurance will cover. And 45% say their doctor’s office doesn’t do this at all or they don’t do it well. (West Survey)

These items all contribute to the patient experience. When your patients have a positive experience with your office, they “enjoy” coming in. Or maybe, more realistically, they dislike it less.

Either way, when you demonstrate to your patients that you value your relationship with them, you establish rapport.   

When this happens, patients are much less likely to cancel.

Strategy #3: Send Patients Reminders

Of course, you want to remind patients about upcoming appointments. But guess what? Patients also want to be reminded!

In fact, the majority of patients — even your most organized patients — expect your office to remind them. They need and appreciate help.

Reminders get a bad rap sometimes because so many practices don’t know how to effectively execute a reminder.

If you’re already sending appointment reminders, congratulations, you’re ahead of the game. But are you confident they’re actually helping reduce no-shows? Ask yourself a few questions:

    • How confident are you in your data? Your reminder system is only as effective as your data is accurate. Be sure to check in with patients to confirm the accuracy of the contact information you have on file. If you’re using an appointment reminder system, make sure it alerts you if a phone number doesn’t work.
  • How receptive would you be to your own reminder system? If you reach out too often or not enough, the communication won’t be effective. 
  • Are you communicating that you value your patients? What message does the content of your reminder convey to patients? Is it worded in such a way that they feel like a number or that you really care about their health?
  • Have you asked your patients how they prefer to be contacted? Some patients prefer text and some prefer email, and many prefer both.

For example. …

  • Do you struggle with what to say in your reminders?
  • Are you unsure about how often to remind your patients?
  • Might you be guilty of sending the same information over and over?
  • Does your current process make it easy for customers to reply?
  • Are you only sending texts or emails too?

Using just 5 simple steps, you’ll improve patient show-up rates and drive profitability for your practice. Because according to Accenture, without an effective reminder system, your practice and your patients are losing out:

  • 57% of patients expect medical care providers to send automated text or email reminders urging them to schedule appointments.
  • 70% of patients say they’ll choose medical care providers that send emails or texts when it’s time to schedule preventative or non-urgent care.

Stop relying on busy patients to remember their appointments. Help them show up or reschedule by proactively reminding them about their appointments.

Maximize the likelihood your patients show up for their appointments and you’ll strengthen relationships while you drive profitability for your practice.


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