Customers call and ask us all the time, “How can your software reduce no-shows?” We tell them, it’s not as simple as just having our software. “It’s how you use it that really brings results.” Now while you may be chuckling to yourself thinking you’ve heard similar in other situations, it really is true.
Did you know that studies show that more and more people want to be reminded of their appointments? One reason for that is that they wouldn’t have scheduled the appointment if they didn’t want or need it. The biggest reason however is that more and more places are charging for no-shows. We suggest the following steps, if you wish to truly reduce no shows, save money and save time.
Make an internal policy-
Having an internal policy of how people are contacted will leave no room for discrepancies amongst yourself and your staff.
Think about how you want things done. Do you want to call people the day before their appointments? On evenings? Between the hours of 2-4pm two days before their appointment? Do you want to send an email reminder a month in advance? Or a text that morning? Do you want to give customers the choice on how they want to be contacted? Or, is the first method always going to be an email and the second a phone call? Decide if you want to charge for no-shows, and if so, how much and under what circumstances. Determine who in your office is going to be in charge of setting things up, making changes, running and reading reports and even following up with your customers. These are all things that need to be thought out in advance.
After you’ve brainstormed on all of this, take the time to write out the policy in a language that leaves no room for confusion. Be sure to add contingencies—if the person can’t be reached at the home, call cell and then send a text. Consider any possible request or outcome to determine how, when and where to contact people. Write out whether you’re going to charge people who cancel within 20 hours instead of 24. What if they call because their car broke down? Or they are sick.
Finally, once it’s all written down, have everyone involved in messaging, scheduling, patient discussions and billing sign off with understanding and agree to how things should be done.
Set external expectations-
Customers, patients and even colleagues who don’t realize they will be contacted via an automated system will not get the message. The most common reasons people don’t get the message include that they may hang up once they hear that it’s an automated message, they may ignore it if they don’t recognize where it’s coming from, or it could go to spam. It is simple to set expectations, however:
- Add a note to the paperwork your customers, patients, colleagues, etc sign at the very first appointment or meeting with you. If you are allowing them to choose how they wish to be contacted, be sure to include that in your paperwork.
- Add a sign in your office—somewhere obvious, like by the front desk, where people will read it the second they walk in, and again before leaving. Post a copy in a waiting room, consult room, your office, or even your restrooms. Anywhere that customers are, you will want them to refresh their memories regarding your methods of contact.
- Discuss it. Tell people in person, something like, “We are instituting a new automated system for messages. You can receive them via voice, email or text. Make sure you allow calls and texts from the number 555-555-1234, or the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. If you can’t make the appointment, we’ll need you to cancel 24-hours in advance, or you will be charged a no-show fee of $xx.” If you’re offering them the choice on how to be contacted, ask them their preference.
Once you have your policies in place and your expectations set there is no stopping you. Stick to your policies. Send your messages and do not feel guilty about charging for no shows.
Consider creating one of the following signs for your office:
- A charge will be made for all broken appointments not notified within 24 hours.
- $50 Charge For No-Shows
A sign as simple as these reduce no shows over 50%. People are more comfortable agreeing to these policies however, if they are reminded. No one wants to pay for “nothing.”
Also, consider adding this to your initial paperwork:
- You will be considered a no-show if you miss an appointment and do not notify us in advance.
- Payment of the NO-SHOW fee must be made in cash, valid credit card, or verified check before further appointments are allowed.
Did you know that CMS (Center for Medicare Services) has now clarified that they will allow physicians and other providers to charge Medicare beneficiaries for missing appointments, provided that they do not discriminate against Medicare patients, and also charge non-Medicare patients for missed appointments?
In closing, I leave you with this thought—sometimes it’s simply the fear of punishment, in this case, paying for not showing up, that will make people show up. You don’t even necessarily have to charge everyone. There could be exceptions. But if you threaten to, even if a small amount, it may be just enough.
With technology today, there is absolutely no reason for no-shows.