Posted on May 21, 2014

Implement an Appointment Policy to Avoid No-Shows and Cancellations

Every practice will experience patient no-shows, late arrivals, and appointments canceled last minute. However, too many of them can end up costing your practice a lot of money. So what can you do to increase the chances of patients

What can you do to increase the likelihood your patients will show up for their scheduled appointments? Create an appointment policy!

Why do you need a policy for patient appointments?

When considering what you can do to combat missed appointments there are a few options that may come to mind. You could charge a fee for no-shows, late arrivals and last minute cancellations. However, this may not make your patients very happy. You could also overbook to compensate for these appointment issues. Unfortunately, this usually ends up resulting in long wait times for your patients who are on time and will leave them feeling stressed and frustrated. Finally, you can enforce a strict police with consequences that will encourage patients to take their scheduled appointments seriously.

So how do you do this?

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Tell patients how to go about scheduling an appointment.

Do you accept walk-ins? Can patient cancel an appointment 30 minutes before? Let your patients know exactly what you expect of them. The first step in this is giving them all the necessary information to properly schedule an appointment. Do you do confirmation calls/emails/texts? Make sure you get their best contact information and perhaps even a back up option.

Help them prepare for their appointment.

Remind patients to come on time to their appointments or, if possible, to come early. Let them know if there will be any paperwork for them to fill out. Tell them that because of your strict appointment policy, you are usually able to take all patients on time and strive to do so. So they should be respectful of this policy and do their best to arrive on time.

Explain to them how to call ahead if they will be running late or are unable to make the appointment entirely. Be specific about the cutoff for appointment cancellations. Is it 2 hours? 24 hours? 2 days? Let them know. Of course, be understanding in the event of an emergency or unexpected circumstance.

Waiting Room Etiquette

Remind patients that you ask for their respect when waiting for their appointment as well. Do you have a cell phone policy? Make sure it is posted somewhere clearly visible and written in your policy as well. If you want your patients to sit in separate areas if they are sick or healthy, be sure to designate these areas and clearly mark them. In addition, stock your waiting room with tissues, hand sanitizer and masks and encourage your patients to use these items.

Consequences of Missed Appointments

Finally, outline in your appointment policy, the consequences for late arrivals, last minute cancellations and no-shows. Will your practice dismiss a patient or family for multiple no-shows? How many? Be clear here so you can go back to it and take action if necessary.

Are you ready to get started creating your own patient appointment policy? Click here to download our template ready for your use.

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Have other suggestions? Want to tell us about your appointment policy? Share in the comments section below!