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Find out why patients are canceling their appointments, and then use that information give them more information and get them back into your medical practice.
When something happens in your life that you perceive to have a negative impact, do you know how to turn that into a positive result? Try a little experiment with yourself next time something happens at your practice, and look for the positive result in a negative situation.
For instance, when a patient calls to cancel their visit(s) with you, are you capturing their reason why? This is such an amazing tool at zero cost to you, other than about 15 minutes per week to review the list. Break it down like this:
• Once per week, have your front/back office administrator run your cancellation report for the week and sit down to review the reasons listed; if you find them to be too vague, you can ask your staff to try to get the patient to be more specific. Instead of, "had to cancel," perhaps it's more appropriate to say, "Not feeling well."
• Now that you have your reasons, take a look at them closely. What trends are you seeing? Do you have a patient that cancels appointments often at the last minute leaving you with a hole in your schedule that could have produced revenue? Are their patients making decision about their healthcare without you? Is the patient going to see another physician (specialist, MRI, X-ray, other tests)?
• Once you have identified those areas its time your staff gets back on the phone to speak more with the patients. Perhaps your physician assistant or nurse practitioner would be good for this task.
If the cancellation reason was, "I'm in too much pain to come in for my appointment," perhaps the flip side of this (positive result) is calling the patient back, and finding out the source of their pain and whether it is related to the appointment they missed. Can you bring them in to assess the pain or perhaps refer them to a pain specialist? This is your area, and perhaps the patient did not think you could help them out. By contacting the patient, you have shown that not only do you care about their wellbeing; you have created a customer for life.
If the cancellation reason was, "I don't need this test done. I'm fine," perhaps you can let the patient know that it is a necessary test/appointment in the overall picture of your treatment process. Oftentimes, and as unfortunate as this is, you have to lay groundwork for the insurance company that may lead up to a surgery or a more expensive test. But, the patient is not thinking this way, and just wants to get on with it. They don't understand that skipping these smaller tests/appointments could lead to a denial of "not medically necessary." It's your job to work with them and convince them that although it may seem menial, it is necessary.
If the cancellation reason was, "It's too expensive," this is where you get to explain that the cost of insurance goes two ways. You can either pay a more expensive monthly premium to have a lower deductible, or you can pay a low monthly fee and have a high deductible. It's a wash either way. If they still cannot afford it, setting up a payment plan from the beginning is a great way to go. This also takes the stress off of the patient knowing you are willing to work with them, and they are more likely to come in for their appointment.
If the cancellation reason was, "I just don't want to come in," this is a patient that you can flag as a "same day appointment only" patient. If they do not respect your time, and feel it's not a problem to walk away from an appointment, then you need to take considerations to protect your company.
The bottom line is to get the patient in to see you. Following up with those patients who drop off of your schedule is not just good customer service, but it helps your private practice thrive. Taking a few minutes each week to review this list should be a part of your company culture and business model.