5 Ways to Cut Patient No-Shows (and Increase Patient Loyalty)

5 Ways to Cut Patient No-Shows (and Increase Patient Loyalty)

Maintaining efficient scheduling is key to running a thriving practice. Over-schedule and patients end up waiting past their point of forgiveness. Under-schedule and your fully staffed office takes a painful financial hit.

And then there are the no-shows.  No matter how hard you try to anticipate the “just-right” appointment balance, unforeseen no-shows can sink your best-laid plans. 

But if your focus is only on the short-term revenue loss, take a closer look at the real damage no-shows do to your practice.

Before I go any further, however, let me add this: as a marketing leader, my focus is on how I can help my clients improve their brand performance and patient experience. The recommendations you’ll find here support those goals.  Here’s what you won’t find here: “carrot and stick” recommendations. Let’s face it: we’re all human. Cars break down. Family members become ill. Babysitters fail to show up. And sometimes, our digital calendars – or human memories – simply fail us. Shaming a loyal patient for their occasional no-show is more likely to sour an otherwise positive relationship – and generate ripples of negative online commentary down the road. It’s rarely worth it.

Instead, here are 5 smart ways to cut no-shows dramatically – with an all carrot, no stick approach that works.

1. Identify the patients who consistently miss their appointments

Don’t try to create any kind of policy until you have a firm grasp of the scope of your problem. Who are your patients who struggle most to get to the clinic? Most often, a small percentage of patients account for the majority of a clinic’s no-shows.

2. Invite patient feedback – and find out why some patients no-show more often.

You may be surprised by what you learn. For example, patients who are experiencing or recovering from a traumatic life event may reveal that they are often overwhelmed and lose track of their own calendar appointments.  While they may be undependable now, they’ll likely be dependable – and extremely loyal – once the storm passes.  Others might tell you they actually had no idea that no-showing mattered much because when they have shown up, you’ve made them wait more than a half hour for their appointments. Or, if your own office staff struggles to handle appointment calls efficiently, you may learn that patients were unclear about their appointment time or felt rushed and confused after hanging up the phone. The reasons you learn won’t lead to one blanket solution.  But they’ll certainly give you greater insights into what’s working and not working as you refine your scheduling process.

3. Provide reminders

Making everyday outbound calls is probably an unrealistic burden for your office staff. But these reminders are highly effective at cutting no-shows. Outsource call centers, like Skybridge Americas, do provide these reminders, at great long-term savings to our clients. With a human-to-human reminder conversation, patients who struggle to get to the appointment can improve their attendance and rate their experience with their provider more positively.

4. Address no-shows with immediate, shame-free, reschedule calls

Ask your patients. They’ll tell you: a kind-hearted call from your practice, offering to help reschedule – without blame or indignation – can create vast reservoirs of good will that serve you, your practice, and the patient very well going forward. But the truth is, placing that kind of call (the one without even a hint of annoyance) can be challenging for the office staff who had to scramble and deal with the no-show in the first place. An outsource call center is staffed with professionals whose only focus is delivering the positive message and getting the appointment rescheduled.

5. When all else fails, consider a double-booking policy for regular no-shows

Many clinics double book certain times on certain days, based on clinic history. You shouldn’t need to fall back on that kind of generic process once you’ve pinpointed which patients are most likely to not be there when it’s their turn. If you reserve your double-books for only those patients, it will be easier to maintain the delicate but critical balance on the clinic calendar.

If you’d like to learn more about how Skybridge Americas can help you reduce no-shows and improve patient experience and loyalty, please reach out.  We would love to talk with you!

by Bobby Matthews
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
Skybridge Americas


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