July 2019

IN THE PRACTICE

Effective reminders and other tactics to reduce no-show rates


by Liz Hillman EyeWorld Senior Staff Writer

“In vision practices, the average no-show rate is 20–25%. That translates to more than $200,000 a year in lost revenue per location. ”
—Josh Weiner


How often do you remind your patients of an upcoming appointment? According to a recent study, there is an optimum mode and method for timing appointment reminders to encourage attendance.
The research by Solutionreach, a patient relationship management company, found that three messages—one sent more than a week before the appointment, one sent within the week of the appointment, and one sent the same day—increased confirmations by a total of 156%.
No-show rates are significant and can financially impact practices, said Josh Weiner.
“In vision practices, the average no-show rate is 20–25%. That translates to more than $200,000 a year in lost revenue per location,” Mr. Weiner said. “Nearly 40% of those patients say it’s because they simply forgot, which is totally preventable. Automated reminders can make a big impact.”
While reminders can reduce no-show rates by 30–50%, Mr. Weiner said “when done right,” practices can get no-shows to less than 5%. Understanding what works for patients is critical, he continued. People are bombarded with texts and emails, so making reminders targeted, relevant, and effective will not only help reduce no-show rates, it can help practices build relationships with patients, Mr. Weiner said.
Of the 20 million confirmation responses from 25,000 medical practices in Solutionreach’s database, Mr. Weiner said they were able to track which reminders specifically resulted in the highest rate of confirmations. He clarified that this data does not confirm whether patients showed up (that’s tracked by the practice), but he thinks confirmations do result in patients being far more likely to show up.
The data showed that sending reminders 3 weeks, 3 days, and 3 hours ahead of appointments was most effective. The research also identified what didn’t increase appointment confirmations. For example, sending an appointment reminder right after scheduling had no impact when that appointment was more than a month away.
“If you get feedback or see trends that suggest you should adjust that timing, then you should. The other piece is to use patient preferences for sending reminders. Ask patients what they prefer—text, email, phone. What language is best? Do they have a preference on timing? If a patient just wants one message the day before, adjust for that patient. This doesn’t have to be one size fits all,” Mr. Weiner said.
This is an issue for all types of medical practices, so EyeWorld spoke with some doctors outside of ophthalmology. Inessa Fishman, MD, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon who opened her own practice after 4 years as part of a group, offered a few strategies that work for her to reduce no-show rates:
• Dr. Fishman’s electronic medical record allows her to customize sending out automatic patient reminders 3 days and 1 day prior to appointments.
• Call patients who have a past no-show history. “I suspect the less personal emails and texts from the practice don’t resonate with some patients,” Dr. Fishman said. “I think a personal call is also best for new patients who have not been to our practice previously and need some additional explanation for directions or what to expect about the visit.”
• Terminate routine violators. Rarely, Dr. Fishman said she has had to terminate relationships with patients who violated clinic policies by not rescheduling in a timely manner or
for not showing up. “I find it important to give plenty of warning and have a very frank discussion with the patient before implementing this. I also find that terminating relationships with particularly disruptive patients can boost staff morale significantly,” she said.
There are other strategies to reduce no-shows, in addition to appointment reminders, said Kim Langdon, MD, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist. Social media, for example, can be used to remind patients of the general policies regarding cancellation or rescheduling, which could in turn remind them of an upcoming appointment. Offering the ability to reschedule online (versus over the phone) can reduce the hassle or embarrassment of needing to call, Dr. Langdon said.
But the best ways to reduce no-show rates, Dr. Langdon said, are to be on time, courteous, and personal yourself.
“Overall, the best ways to reduce no-shows are to run on time, have a courteous staff that answers the phones promptly, and designate one person to manage the schedule, someone who can bond with the patient and make it personal,” she said. “People do not like to disappoint and will more likely call in and reschedule if they sense the person on the other end is positive and reassures them that they understand that canceling and rescheduling is just a normal part of extremely busy lives.”

About the sources

Inessa Fishman, MD
Aviva Plastic Surgery & Aesthetics
Atlanta

Kim Langdon, MD
Obstetrician/gynecologist, retired
Parenting Pod
Columbus, Ohio

Josh Weiner
President and chief operating officer
Solutionreach
Salt Lake City

Financial interests

Fishman
: None
Langdon: None
Weiner: Solutionreach

Contact information

Fishman: inessa.fishman@gmail.com
Langdon: sara@parentingpod.com
Weiner: smatthews@mergeworld.com

Effective reminders and other tactics to reduce no-show rates Effective reminders and other tactics to reduce no-show rates
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