Here's Your New Patient Cancellation Policy

January 23, 2018

Taking a serious look at your worth and value might have your head spinning, but it’s worth it.

As a follow-up from my last post, I wanted to touch on worth and value.  Those are two words you should be focusing on when it comes to your business.  Let me explain the difference between the two and how they are intrinsically entwined.

Worth is a term used to denote how much something will cost or how much an item will sell for. For example, one appointment block is worth $85.00+. The monetary value attached to any particular item is an item's worth.

Value is a broad term that encompasses emotion as well as cost. Value can be used to describe items that don't necessarily have a dollar value attached to them, like the value of your time.

Having recently spent hours of time reviewing data from 2017, I found that a client had 8,650 cancellations and 1,758 no-shows.  By looking at their appointment worth, they lost nearly one million dollars in inflow (payment from the insurance company and patients).  It’s worth noting that of the 10,408 missed appointments total, only 26 were charged the small cancellation fee of $40. Of the 26, two of those were dismissed by the provider because the patient was "upset" having assessed the fee, which meant only 24 were charged.

This year, the client will be sharing their company and provider worth and value far better than they ever have.  This will be in the form of communicating, training, supporting and charging patients for these missed visits. It is important to note at this point that they have increased the missed appointment cost to $50 per incident. Yes, they are still losing money on the missed appointment, but they are teaching the patient that their worth and value are very important. They are helping patients understand that providers are professionals who deserve the respect of a phone call 24 hours in advance so that they can utilize their wait-list and fill that appointment block.

I’d like you to quickly review you cancellation policy. If you don’t have one, feel free to use this one: If a patient calls prior to 24 hours of their appointment, the appointment can be deleted and the appointment block filled with another patient.  If a patient calls inside of 24 hours and cancels their appointment, CANCEL will be chosen in your EHR with the reason for the cancellation.  A cash case will be created by the front-office staff, and the therapist will be informed of the cancellation so they can use the new CANCEL5 code in their EHR to assess the $50 cancel charge.  This charge will also be assessed to all patient NO-SHOWS using the same CANCEL5 code in your EHR.  This time slot on the schedule will now be filled with another patient from your waitlist, a new patient evaluation, or someone calling looking for an appointment. 

In addition to the next-level cancellation fee are their CASH rates. On the updated fee schedule I emailed out to them earlier this week, they found we have added to their VALUE by increasing cash rates to a minimum of $75/visit. If you have patients paying less right now, inform them of the increase. If they are in a financial hardship scenario, they can go on a payment plan that will allow them to pay over time.  Your time is valuable and you are worth it.  Remember those hours of studying, your student loans, and hours away from loved ones while earning that degree.  Your time is valuable and you are worth the cost of minimum $75/visit.

You have a high level of education. On top of that, your experience allows you to assess patients at a very high level. Your staff all have different interests, which makes them very accessible to patients. They can relate to similar experiences and this results in patients staying compliant to their plan of care, and respecting your staff's time by showing up to their appointment. 

As you explain the cancellation policy to each new patient, be very clear why you have a $50 fee for missed appointments. Start them understanding this on that first appointment and set them up to succeed with their treatment, while respecting your time. Don’t be shy about this, it’s very important.