As pervasive as this problem may appear, independent practices can take tenable steps to protect their revenues from diminishing as a consequence of missed appointments. Apply some of these digital practice management and scheduling tips and techniques to transform lost value into new revenue opportunities.
Solving this problem requires a centralized, well-organized scheduling system that is uniquely suited to the nuances of health care. Many clerical errors are simple in their nature: double-booking, accidentally selecting the wrong date, sending an appointment reminder to the wrong contact or through a non-preferred communication channel (e.g., text instead of email). It's crucial that front-desk staff have the ability to manage schedules in a streamlined way that helps to nip these problems in the bud.
Others errors, however, are more complex. Consider what happens if a patient referral or authorization is required for a certain appointment, and a time slot is mistakenly scheduled without verifying that information first. The practitioner loses that appointment and the patient is inconvenienced. Critical pre-appointment data should ideally be verifiable in the same window as your scheduling tool so that your staff don't overlook key details that may disrupt operations later on.
It's also worth pointing out that better scheduling management isn't just about preventing loss; it's also about creating new opportunities to improve patient flow – for example, the ability to assess patient volume on a macro level and find days of greatest availability by scanning a month view of your calendar. This ensures that the front desk never misses a free time slot for patients who are willing to schedule weeks or months in advance. A week view, meanwhile, can ensure that patients who express urgency get slotted into any available appointments for that week.
Practices also benefit from the ability to search schedules by provider. Some patients may have a preference or a need to follow up with a certain physician. Front-desk staff shouldn't have to dig to identify availability for a specific provider. That information should be readily available with just a few clicks. If it's not, then it may be time to renovate your practice management strategy.
Another key aspect of patient scheduling is the ability to have a patient-flow view on the same window as your appointment calendar. This is helpful for making sure that a practice has everything it needs to confirm a patient is ready to be seen:
The ability to verify the status of this information on one screen simplifies the immense multi-tasking, data entry and the scheduling involved in a front-desk worker's day.
Still, there are a few ways strong practice management interface prevents these no-shows from happening, and they don't add work to office staffs' already full plate:
A little reminder can go a long way.
If, despite doing everything, you still get day-of cancelations and no-shows, there's a final measure that can be taken to salvage that time slow: Refer to your wait-list.
During scheduling – whether that happens online or over the phone – patients can indicate interest in coming in sooner than scheduled if possible. Should you receive a cancelation the day before or the day of a visit, you can contact someone on that wait-list.
A tool like AllMed's Specialty Practice Manager will automatically populate a newly erased appointment slot on the calendar with a possible alternative pulled from the wait-list. This makes it easy for staff to fill the gap in the schedule as a last-ditch effort to avoid missing out on revenue.
When life gives you missed appointments, schedule over them.